By Hanna Hamida Hughes, second year History of Art and Spanish
The University has a duty of care to it's students. But how can these expectations be met when new undergrads have been sent to live up to 50.2 kilometres from Bristol? Bristol, Cut the Rent are mobilising to make student voices on the matter heard.
I urge anyone who has any sympathy to the students in Newport, Langford, and other far-off accommodation to participate. Show the University that such treatment of students will not be tolerated.
Picture this: it’s results day and you haven’t quite got the results you wanted. Maybe, you’ve missed your first choice and Bristol is your insurance. Maybe you decide to go into clearing to find a course here. That was the situation I found myself in just over a year ago. I’m sure many of you reading this may have had a similar experience. If it was anything like mine, you will have found yourself excited though possibly apprehensive about the new and unexpected turn in your university plans.
Like me, you probably didn’t expect there to be too many further surprises before coming to University. I was fortunate to be placed in a temporary shared room upon arrival and was quickly moved to my own room with very few further complications to my accommodation situation. I’m sure that many people in my position during previous years would be able to say the same.
Not this year.
The University has misrepresented the one ‘benefit’ of living in Newport.
For those of you who have been living a hermetical existence, I envy you. What has come to be known as the ‘Newport Situation’ refers to the news that Bristol University has placed some freshers 50.2 kilometres from Bristol, across the border in Newport, Wales. After the news broke in August, complaints made to the University by Bristol, Cut the Rent and the SU. The University then gave students who had not yet accepted their accommodation offer an alternative. However, nothing was done to give alternatives to students who had accepted their offer. The University pitched these halls as a notably cheaper alternative to halls in the city. With rooms ranging from £88 to £94 per week this was ostensibly the case. Students offered rooms in Newport were also assured that the University would compensate their travel costs; the very least they could do.
It soon transpired that this assurance only applied to transport within Bristol. Newport students would be expected to pay their commute into Temple Meads themselves: approximately £40 or more each week. Added to the weekly rent that would make the actual cost of living in Newport whilst studying at Bristol £128 or more a week. Now compare that to halls in Bristol: University Hall, Manor Hall and the campus houses are among the cheapest halls available to undergraduates. These rooms are advertised as starting at £107 per week. Even moving up in price bracket, there is Northwell House, Hillside Woodside, Redland Road, and Riverside. Their cheapest rooms range from £112 to £130 a week. The University has misrepresented the one ‘benefit’ of living in Newport.
They have been isolated from their peer group, and from the chance to fully integrate into the University community.
This says nothing of the emotional impact of being so far removed from your University centre. First year is a time of upheaval and adjustment. Many students will have come to Bristol knowing very few people and living in the city gives an opportunity to socialise and build relationships. This is undeniably vital to a healthy life in general. Those of us who live in Bristol may take for granted the relative ease with which we can visit friends elsewhere in the city, organise a spontaneous coffee date, or bump into people you haven’t seen in a while (a few days) during a night out. If you live in Stoke Bishop, you may even view a trip to visit a friend in Goldney as a long one. Students in Newport – or near the veterinary campus in Langford – are not afforded such a luxury. They have been isolated from their peer group, and from the chance to fully integrate into the University community.
The University has a responsibility of care to its students. This means – at the bare minimum – that students are given fair housing in the city and not dumped in another country. On Wednesday 16th October at 1pm, Bristol, Cut the Rent will be leading a demonstration outside the Victoria Rooms to protest these events. I urge anyone who has any sympathy to the students in Newport, Langford, and other far-off accommodation to participate. Show the University that such treatment of students will not be tolerated.
Featured: Epigram / Will Charley
Will you be attending the march on the 16th of October?