Education & Family

Students forced to share single rooms at some universities

Students move into shared room Image copyright Epigram: India Castle-Gibb
Image caption Some first-year students at Bristol University have had to share single rooms this term

Students at some universities are having to share single rooms, the BBC has learned.

Thousands of extra places, offered this year, have meant some universities have been unable to house all their first-year students in halls of residence.

BBC research found the universities of Bristol, Aberdeen and Winchester were particularly badly affected.

Bristol University said the situation was "not ideal" and it was working to resolve it as soon as possible.

First-year philosophy student Darcy Ramsden applied on time, put Bristol as her first choice and met the required grades.

When she started she was expecting her own room.

Bunk beds

Instead, she is sharing with another first-year, sleeping in bunk beds in a room meant for one, with a single sink and desk.

"I wasn't expecting to have another person to come home to, I was expecting to have my own space and everyone needs their own space. It's a bit strange I'm never on my own," Ms Ramsden told BBC News.

This year, the government raised the cap on student numbers in the UK, allowing universities to recruit an extra 30,000 students.

Next year, student number controls will be removed altogether.

At some universities this has forced a squeeze on student accommodation.

At Bristol, 200 students are doubling up in single rooms, in return for discounted rent and free food, until the university finds them their own places.

David Alder, the university's director of marketing and communications, said: "This year, in particular, a very large number of people applied to Bristol, including some people who traded up when they got better A-level results than they were expecting.

"Clearly it's not ideal that some of our students are having to share. Having said that, overall, they are taking to it very well.

Image copyright Epigram: India Castle-Gibb
Image caption Bristol university says the situation is not ideal but students are being relatively positive about it

"They are relatively positive about the situation and we are working very closely with them to address the situation as soon as we can."

In other popular university cities like Aberdeen and Winchester, students had to be housed in hotels at the start of term.

At Aberdeen, up to 300 were sent to hotels, the students' union told BBC news.

A university spokesman confirmed they have all "now been offered a permanent place to stay".

The spokesman said requests for student accommodation rose by 10% this year and it had refurbished 700 rooms to meet demand.

At Winchester, the students' union over 150 were without places in halls of residence at the start of term but "the uni management were very good", paying for hotel rooms for about 70 and finding spaces for the rest in "uni-managed housing".

The union said it hoped management would "learn the lessons of this year as there will be increased volatility and uncertainty in future".

The university said it had met its guarantee to provide university accommodation for all those who applied by the end of May.

Transport costs

"The university and the student housing team worked tirelessly to secure permanent accommodation for other students as soon as possible," a spokesman said.

Everyone has now been found a permanent place to live, although some accommodation is in Southampton.

The university says it has given students living in Southampton £550 each to help meet transport costs.

Universities and private developers are investing heavily in new halls of residence.

But student housing specialist Roger Lown of GVA property consultants, warns that in cities like Bristol, Brighton, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Canterbury and Winchester "it is increasingly difficult to find purpose-built accommodation and students want to live in purpose-built accommodation".

Mr Lown says this can put students in competition with locals for housing, resulting in higher rents for everyone.

Tom Phipps, of Bristol Students' Union warned: "It's something that is affecting [students] right across the higher education sector and with the drive from universities for expansion we need to be really careful the student experience regarding accommodation isn't diminished as a result."

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