student accommodation
Are universities lacking accountability when it comes to student accommodation matters? Source: Shutterstock

Universities across the UK have come under fire for failing to ensure student accommodations are ready for incoming students at the start of the term, leaving thousands in a lurch. 

According to The Independent, some undergraduates had no choice but to live in hotels or waited weeks before they could move into their allocated accommodation, with delays negatively affecting their mental health and studies. 

Dylan Thomson, deputy president of Liverpool Guild of Students, was quoted saying by The Independent that students were left “stressed and anxious” when they were told just a day before moving that their rooms would not be ready.

“Many of the students were first-years and already feeling nervous. Disruption in the first few weeks of university life, which is already a stressful period, was made worse. This left some students feeling unsettled and isolated which made it difficult to find friends,” he said. 

A group of students in Portsmouth were placed in hotels a 30-minute drive from the university following delays to private accommodation at the start of term. 

Helena Schofield, president of Portsmouth Students’ Union, said some students were moved thrice, while a few are still in temporary rooms three months after the start of term. 

“It has affected their studies as they have spent a lot of time emailing private companies and it has been really unsettling and distressing for them,” she told The Independent.

Close to 800 students were placed in temporary accommodation at the start of the academic year as university-owned halls were unfinished. Freedom of Information requests to 145 institutions show that the number of students who have been delayed moving into fixed accommodation has risen by 47 percent in two years – from 539 in 2017 to 793. 

For private student accommodation, student housing charity Unipol says up to 2,000 students have faced disruption this year. Their data show 23 private student accommodation blocks being built across the UK were not completed in time for the start of term, compared with 13 developments last year.

A lack of accountability?

This is not a new problem. 

In September, students who moving into the Calico Building in Liverpool City Centre were plunged into chaos upon being told the night before they were scheduled to move in that they could not do so, due to issues with electricity supply. 

Meanwhile, unforeseen delays at the Coppergate development translated to stress and anxiety for Swansea University students who could not move into their accommodation.

Some institutions offer students fruit hampers or supermarket and laundry vouchers to make up for accommodation delays, a move which was slammed by the National Union of Students (NUS).

Speaking to The Independent, Eva Crossan Jory, vice president for welfare at NUS, said there should be mandatory compensation to affected students. 

“It is not really a gift if you are giving someone laundry vouchers when the flat they were meant to have had a washing machine,” she said.

“A lot of universities are trying to abdicate their responsibility of accommodation for students. They act like it’s only private providers problems. Universities are making a lot of money from the fees students are paying but they are not putting that money into building the infrastructure to support the number of students they are then going to house.”

Meanwhile, a Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said they are aware of the issues surrounding student accommodation and were “working to address them”.

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