University promise Bristol accommodation to affected freshers in Newport U-turn

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By Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief

After making offers to new undergraduate students to live in a ‘Commute and Save’ residence in Newport, the University will offer places in Bristol or Langford for those still without suitable accommodation.

On 9 September, Epigram reported that over 200 new undergraduate students were still looking for accommodation after missing out on University of Bristol owned or managed halls of residence. The University offered them places on their Langford campus, outside of the city, and in a third party ‘Commute and Save’ residence in Newport, Wales.

After the article was published, representatives from senior management and Bristol Student’s Union have supported the Accommodation Office in efforts to secure appropriate accommodation for each student affected. By Wednesday (11 September), the number of first year students looking for homes had been reduced to around 80.

Now, the University have told Epigram that by Monday morning (16 September) all first year students will have been offered places in Bristol or Langford and that ‘unless a student has chosen to stay in Newport they will not need to consider this as an option’.

'I have been looking frantically for accommodation for the last four days and haven't yet found anything'

Posted by Epigram on Monday, 9 September 2019


Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience, said: ‘Colleagues in our accommodation team have been working incredibly hard over the past week to individually support those students who were not part of the 6,000 students we have already placed in University owned or University managed accommodation

‘As each day has passed we have managed to bring down the number still looking for suitable accommodation and I am delighted to say that by Monday morning we will have been able to offer every student accommodation in Bristol or at our Langford campus.

‘For a very small number of students the accommodation offer we make will be a temporary solution but in the coming weeks, as we receive further student deferrals and withdrawals, we will be able to offer long-term accommodation to this small group.’

‘I am delighted to say that by Monday morning we will have been able to offer every student accommodation in Bristol or at our Langford campus.’
Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro V-C Student Experience

Around 20 students had expressed interest in the Newport option, and around 40 took the opportunity to go to Langford, when it was first offered. Those who were going to Newport now have been offered places in Bristol or on the Langford campus, which is over 13 miles from the main University facilities.

At a House Search event hosted by the Accommodation Office on Tuesday, attendees were supported in finding and applying for private rentals by University staff and SU Living Officer George Bemrose, who has been in contact with affected students throughout and attended to ‘support students through this horrible situation’.

Any students who have already signed a private tenancy have not been included in the latest offer of University accommodation, but can be placed on a waiting list if they are unhappy with their situation. Any departure from a private tenancy will incur risks and potentially fees, subject to the individual contractual agreement.

The University provide the free U2 service to transport students from Langford to central campus

George Bemrose added: ‘Since I first heard of the House Search event, which is run most years, I made it clear to numerous University staff that no student should not be put through this stressful process.

‘Suggesting Newport and private housing to first year students is not acceptable. It is known that these solutions contribute to poor wellbeing and grade attainment. If the University truly cares about students’ wellbeing, they need to prevent situations which damage it.’

Eddie, one of the students looking for private accommodation before the latest offers, said ‘this nightmare was over’ for him, but recognised other students have not had the same fortune of being placed in City Centre halls.

‘It has been so stressful, particularly when I found out the scale of the problem. I have been really lucky to get a place in New Bridewell and am looking forward to being in the centre of Bristol, being able to take part in sport, go to the gym, make friends and study.’

‘Suggesting Newport and private housing to first year students is not acceptable. It is known that these solutions contribute to poor wellbeing and grade attainment. If the University truly cares about students' wellbeing, they need to prevent situations which damage it’
George Bemrose, SU Living Officer

Georgiana, who lived in Langford for four weeks from Freshers’ Week last year as a temporary solution for a leak in Badock Hall and said: ‘Knowing I was going there made me not want to go to University, but it actually worked out for the best. A small group of us became very close and bonded quickly, probably because we spent so long stuck on a bus together. The University worked really hard to make sure we were supported and provided taxis if buses didn’t show.

‘However, living outside the city significantly impacted my social life. It was almost impossible to meet people on my course, and as soon as lectures finished I had to leave to get back for dinner. I couldn’t really attend any trial sessions for any societies as they were too short and would take over an hour to travel to.’

Professor Sarah Purdy added: ‘We know how important these first few weeks of term are for our students. Members of our Residential Life teams will be working with colleagues from across the University and the Students’ Union to ensure all new students feel part of our University community from the moment they start.

‘For those staying at Langford we will ensure transport arrangements are in place so they can take a full part in Freshers Week.’

Feature image: Epigram / Patrick Sullivan


What are your thoughts on the University's initial offer of Newport accommodation? Let us know!

AUTHOR

Patrick Sullivan

Epigram Co-Editor-in-Chief 2019-20. Engineering student turned film critic turned news writer - enjoying the most brilliantly strange route into the media world.

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