Moving into halls at university can be daunting enough. But while the vast majority of freshers joining the University of Edinburgh this year have been happily homed, a small number have expressed dissatisfaction over a shortage of flats which has left students either sharing rooms, or staying away from university halls.
Issues have arisen as a result of an unusually high number of candidates accepting places to study at the University of Edinburgh this year. This has not only meant around 250 non-couples sharing twin rooms, but has also left accommodation services with halls at bursting point, and insufficient headroom to deal with students who applied towards the end of the summer break.
Speaking to The Journal, fresher Sam Fath-Ordoubadi said: “Basically I got my offer two days before the accomodation deadline, so i missed it by one day and so I’m not guaranteed accomodation. I'm staying in a hostel now until places free up, whenever that will be. Probably within two weeks. I have a good friend who lives in Pollock Halls; otherwise socially I’d be screwed.”
But even some who met the deadline have encountered difficulties. Accommodation services confirm that they have been unable to provide university-owned flats for 150 students. This has been resolved, however, by sourcing three additional blocks from UNITE, a property development firm specialising in the renovation and construction of student accommodation units.
A spokesperson from the university said: “[UNITE] accommodation provides all the core services provided by university accommodation and has been offered to students at a cost the same as that for the university's standard undergraduate self-catered flats.”
"We of course have the necessary plans in place to ensure all our student residents continue to receive all appropriate welfare and support services."
Richard Kington, director of the university's accommodation services department, said: “We have been successful in providing accommodation to all of those for whom we guaranteed accommodation. I think we’ve done, under the circumstances, a pretty good job.”
However, some students have been informed that one of the blocks, UNITE's McDonald Road complex, is not yet complete. Those affected have been placed in hotels around the city. For some, the luxury of a hotel stay, plus the additional £20 per day provided by UNITE for food, has proved adequate compensation. Writing on one of the relevant discussion forums, one fresher said, “I’m not gonna complain about the hotel. I went on its website and it looks pretty good, and breakfast plus £20 food money sounds ok.”
Another fresher, however, was less enthused by the temporary accommodation: “I am absolutely majorly pissed at Edinburgh. Can’t believe it,” she wrote upon discovering her accommodation arrangements.
Some criticism has been aimed at a perceived failure by accommodation services to communicate effectively with students as to the arrangements. One worried parent was told that, while students were guaranteed accommodation, the exact details could not be confirmed. She was advised to turn up with her offspring during freshers' week, whereupon accommodation would be arranged.
Chris Barnes, assistant director at accommodation services, declined to comment when contacted by The Journal. However, when pushed on whether he was aware of the complaints being fielded by Student Union president Adam Ramsay he responded angrily: “If Adam Ramsay has a problem [with the way accommodation services are informing freshers] then he knows where to come with them.” He added that accommodation services had informed all students that those guaranteed a room would definitely receive one.
Adam Ramsay issued the following statement regarding the problems: “University departments have accepted too many students this year, and accommodation services has struggled to deal with this mistake. Many students feel they have not been kept adequately informed over the summer, and were understandably worried. Most of these problems have now been resolved.”