By Isabella Culey, Third Year, Politics and International Relations
Outrage sparked amongst University of West England (UWE) students housed in South Wales due to the shortage of campus accommodation in Bristol, while student protests in Durham made headlines last week- demanding an end to course over-subscription, support from local councillors to tackle rent inflation, and subsidies for struggling students.
Complaints of inadequate housing arrangements resonate with first-year students at UWE, 127 of whom have been housed in Newport Student Village, 27 miles away from the Bristol-based university campus, due to oversubscription.
The two-hour round trip for students living in Newport, requiring a 35-minute train journey and a bus ride to the main campus, could cost them up to £60 per week.
While UWE has offered to cover the cost of railcards for students housed the other side of the River Severn, as well as taxi journeys to the station, it has not announced that it will be subsidising train fares.
During a cost-of-living crisis, these additional travel expenses are far from inconsequential. Speaking to WalesOnline, one first year living in Newport said that they were having to ask themselves: “Can I even buy food this week because I have spent £50 on trains?”
Living so far away from the rest of their cohort has had a particularly negative impact on students’ ability to socialise. Another student talking to WalesOnline revealed:
“My friends are out most nights in Bristol and I’m struggling to get out there. It’s the middle of the night, there are no transport links back home, and it has put me in such an awkward position. I came to UWE because I loved the city, it seemed so cool to me. But I’ve ended up in Wales. It wasn’t what I wanted”
University of Bristol students faced a similar fate, back in 2019, when 25 first years were housed in Newport. Vice-Chancellor Professor Evelyn Welch has assured students in an interview with epigram earlier this academic term that UoB’s 'freshers will not be housed in Newport'.
Meanwhile, UWE Vice-Chancellor Prof Steve West has published an apology to students upset with being housed in Wales, and UWE has announced that plans are being made to expand the Frenchay Campus in Bristol to accommodate its growing student population.
But students across the country are facing similar problems. A final year law student at Manchester reported to the BBC that they have resorted to sofa surfing after finding it impossible to secure accommodation.
If over-subscription is not addressed, the National Union of Students (NUS) have suggested that some students may have no other option but to drop out.