By Megan Evans, News Editor and Filiz Gurer, Co-Editor-in-Chief
The University of Bristol is offering new students a financial incentive to defer their entry until September 2022, amid the unprecedented number of students achieving the grades of their entry offer, challenging the University’s capacity on some courses and in halls accommodation.
A number of prospective Bristol students, predominantly those who made Bristol their insurance choice, have been informed that they are unlikely to receive a place in university accommodation.
The University of Bristol is encouraging ‘non-guaranteed’ accommodation applicants to search for housing in the private sector, with the possibility of receiving university accommodation outside of the city.
The university’s Accommodation Office webpage claims that they may be able to offer alternative accommodation, which is ‘likely to be in a shared room or accommodation in a neighbouring town or suburb, such as Bath.’
Students who are housed outside of Bristol under this scheme will receive a travel expenses bursary of £500 per term, whilst also having access to the Uni's Residential Life service.
Non-guaranteed applicants received an email from the University on A Level Results Day (10 August), explaining that they had until 4pm on Friday 13 August to apply to be considered for accommodation in any of the ‘limited number of rooms’ under this provision, which might become available once guaranteed students have been allocated accommodation.
In the email to non-guaranteed new students, the University of Bristol states ‘We cannot guarantee that everyone who is interested in our accommodation will receive an offer, but in these exceptional times we are working very hard to be able to do so. We will begin making offers no earlier than 19th August.
‘We understand that not being able to offer you university-allocated accommodation at this point will be disappointing news.’
Both the email and Bristol Uni's webpage advise that non-guaranteed students can look for accommodation in the private sector. However, the University's website states ‘we must make you aware that there is already very limited remaining availability, with all large providers within the city reporting that they are fully-booked.’
The email also signposts students to Bristol SU Lettings, a successful student oriented lettings company, which earlier in the year had a large number of available properties on its books, but which at the time of publishing currently only has one available property on its website.
Issues with student housing come as teacher-assessed grades resulted in 75 per cent of students meeting the terms of their offer to study at Bristol – significantly higher than the pre-pandemic average of 46 per cent.
This is impacting Bristol Uni's capacity more broadly, to ‘accommodate everyone in a way that maintains a safe campus environment,’ resulting in offer-holders from ‘a very small number of courses’ being offered financial incentive to delay their studies.
This ‘special deferral package’ amounts to almost £11,000 in exchange for students deferring their start date to the 2022/23 academic year.
It consists of a rent reduction of up to £7,000 in guaranteed university accommodation, plus a bursary of £3,600 in their first year of study.
Lewis, an Economics student due to commence study in September, was offered Bristol University’s deferral package, an offer which he feels was ‘abrupt.’
‘I totally understand they need to reduce demand,’ he comments, ‘but cutting the offer off on the 20th leaves very little time after finding out about our accommodation application with the uni to find private housing, otherwise we risk having to defer without the deferral package having exceeded that deadline.
‘If they extended that deadline I think it would provide the reassurance that we can look for private accommodation and then if that fails there’s still a back up.
‘I’ve got the grades to get in, but it feels like I’ve not got in and I could basically be forced into not going this year. It just feels like a position where unless you firmed Bristol there’s nowhere to go.’
Another student, who wanted to opt for the deferral package due to not having guaranteed accommodation through the University, told Epigram how they had called the University to request for the deferral package but was told their course, Veterinary Science, was not eligible, and has as a result had to defer without the package.
A number of students have taken to social media to express dissatisfaction, and many to find potential housemates in the same situation as themselves.
Alicia, an incoming Anthropology student, has posted requests for private renter housemates on Facebook group Bristol Uni Housemate Finder, as making Bristol her insurance university meant she was left with non-guaranteed accommodation.
Speaking to Epigram, Alicia described her search for accommodation as an ‘absolute nightmare’.
She explained: ‘I was shocked to see that there is literally no available accommodation provided by the uni. I understand that a vast amount of people had deferred a year because of the pandemic, but you would have thought this situation would be anticipated by the university and some preparations would have been made to assist students who aren’t guaranteed accommodation.’
Louis, an incoming law student, has found the experience ‘disheartening:’
‘I'm very excited to have a place at Bristol, although I've found it hard to celebrate or properly appreciate the significance of it all since I've spent almost all my free time since results day trying to find somewhere to live.
‘I want to be getting excited about being prepared for uni like many of my friends but despite results day having been and gone, I still don’t know whether I will be able to attend this year as a result of the current ambiguity surrounding accommodation.
‘The whole situation is currently leaving me feeling demoralised and disheartened as hours of house hunting have yet to come to fruition.’
Speaking to the university’s Accommodation Office on results day, Louis ‘was told it was “extremely unlikely” I’d find any accommodation in halls and “very unlikely” that I’d find private sector housing within Bristol.’
In an email to non-guaranteed students, the Accommodation Office states that they are ‘currently sourcing some additional beds and contracts are progressing,’ and that these rooms will be ‘prioritised for students with a health need and under 18’s first, with remaining availability going out on a first come first served basis.’
We don’t have any clearing vacancies this year. Applications for 2022 will open in September and we recommend registering for our virtual open week to find out more: https://t.co/Me5ots6QNc— Bristol University 🎓 (@BristolUni) August 10, 2021
Due to the high number of successful applicants, the university was unable to admit any students through Clearing this year.
In a press release on 10 August, the University of Bristol stated: ‘Because of the increased rate of students making Bristol their firm choice, and the high number of students meeting the terms of their offer, we are not in a position to take applications via Clearing this year. It also means we are unlikely to admit students who have just missed their offer conditions.
‘We know this will be disheartening for those students, who have worked very hard during a very disrupted period.
‘Where possible, we will be holding places for those who successfully appeal their grades later in the summer.
‘We are offering students on a very small number of courses the option to defer, should they wish to start their studies a year later.’
Some other universities, including Leeds and Exeter, are also offering students financial incentives to defer their studies until 2022.
Featured Image: Canva/Epigram | Rosie Angel-Clark | Holly Beaumont
What do you think of the housing issues facing new students at the University of Bristol?
Information from the university on accommodation for non-guaranteed applicants can be found here.