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Hundreds of first years due to start courses without accommodation

Due to a lack of availability in their own provided accommodation, the University of Bristol have offered new undergraduate students emergency places in Langford and even Newport, 30 miles from campus.

By Isaac Haigh, MSc(R) Chemistry and Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Several hundred new Bristol students are frantically searching for places to live two weeks before Freshers' Week due to the University being unable to provide them accommodation in the city.

Due to a lack of availability in University owned halls of residence, it is estimated from affected sources that well over 200 new undergraduate students have not been offered accommodation in Bristol itself.

Instead, the University has offered them emergency places in the veterinary campus of Langford, over 13 miles from the main campus, and third party rooms in Newport, Wales, a 45-minute commute away. In some cases, these offers are temporary.

According to the University’s accommodation website, in 2017, out of 290 students who failed to meet the requirements for the guarantee and then applied for UoB accommodation, 190 were offered places in halls. Most UK universities share this policy to varying numbers, and a group of incoming UWE students are also going through a similar experience.

University accommodation is guaranteed for new students who firmly accept their offer by 30 June and all who met these requirements have been offered a room. However, with the increasing use of clearing, many students preparing to start courses only accepted their offers after the original deadline.

A University spokesperson said: ‘This year there has been a surplus in demand due to fewer deferrals and withdrawals than anticipated, which unfortunately has resulted in us not being able to immediately allocate University accommodation to a number of new undergraduates.’

At a University Management Team meeting in July this year, it was said that the Admissions team were ‘asking Deans and Heads of School to consider stretching numbers on individual programmes where space, student experience and other factors means we can accommodate more students.’

Charlie was accepted onto his course at Bristol on A-Level Results Day, 15 August, as it was his insurance choice. Despite not achieving his original grade requirements, the University still upheld his offer.

He told Epigram that initially the University had been ‘very helpful’. ‘The resources available to me were informative and easily accessible, as was the fact that I may have to temporarily share a room.

‘What immediately went wrong was that they failed to deliver on their promise that, as a disabled student, I would be given priority when they allocated rooms. [...] As far as I can see, my disability wasn’t even taken into account.’

David, who also had Bristol down as an insurance choice, faced a similar experience.

‘By the time I'd seen the email to apply for Langford accommodation, the application was closed, leaving me with a choice of looking for private accommodation or living in a different country.’

‘He was over the moon to get into Bristol. These are young adults who have worked their socks off to get to where they’ve got to and two weeks before they pitch up, [the University] throw them in the trash can.’
One mother shared her shock at trying to find last minute accommodation for her teenage child

One student’s mother, Lucy, spoke about how she has been on ‘every single Facebook group, spent 18 hours on the phone and emails, ringing round trying to organise flatshares’ in order to get her son, who spent a year after school saving money, a place in Bristol and they are still searching. He failed to receive any notification emails about his accommodation as they were marked as spam.

Lucy said: ‘He was over the moon to get into Bristol. These are young adults who have worked their socks off to get to where they’ve got to and two weeks before they pitch up, [the University] throw them in the trash can.’

Another student, Heidi, said: ‘It has been stressful trying to find housemates to share a house with and find a house in the first place! It has definitely been a difficult start to the uni experience.’

Churchill Hall is one of many options for first year accommodation in Stoke Bishop | Epigram / Hannah Worthington 

The University have been advising students to find private accommodation and other students to share with via unofficial Facebook groups, if they do not accept the options outside Bristol. They also suggested to some students to defer their place for a year to 2020 entry.

Poppy, who missed out on the guarantee deadline due to switching Bristol to her firm choice on UCAS in July, set up a Facebook group chat with over 240 members for fellow freshers with the same accommodation issue.

‘It’s probably something the University should have done and made sure everyone was aware of it,’ she said.

‘The reason I chose Bristol was to live in the centre of a fun city. The idea [of living outside the city] wasn't what I wanted at all and also seemed very expensive to travel to/from uni. I have been looking frantically for accommodation for the last four days and haven't yet found anything as most places are now full up due to how late the University told us.’

'The reason I chose Bristol was to live in the centre of a fun city.'
Poppy, incoming 2019/20 undergraduate

The University added to their statement: ‘We are individually supporting these students in various ways, including residential house search events and advice and assistance from both the University accommodation office and colleagues in the Students’ Union.

‘The small number of students choosing [to live in Langford or Newport] will receive support from members of our Residential Life team to help ensure they feel part of the wider University community in those first important weeks.

The aim is to move those affected into University-allocated accommodation in Bristol as soon as suitable spaces become available subject to our normal prioritisation processes.’

George Bemrose, Bristol SU Living Officer, said:  ‘It’s extremely disappointing to see that a number of students are unable to be housed by the University and are facing having to find accommodation so close to the start of term. Each year there are a few students who do not get into University halls, but this year the number is much larger.

‘Throughout the last few weeks I have been chatting with a number of the students in this situation and assisting where I can. From now onwards, I will be working closely with the University to make sure these students receive support finding alternative accommodation.’

Names of sources in this article may have been changed to maintain anonymity.

Feature image: Epigram / Patrick Sullivan

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