From next year, Lancaster will offer catered accommodation to first year students. It will be provided on a pilot basis in Cartmel, County, and Lonsdale colleges.
It is thought that prices will be in the region of £6.60 per day for two meals each day, breakfast and dinner. Based on this pricing, catered accommodation would add an extra £1405.80 on to the total accommodation cost for a year.
This substantial cost is an issue highlighted by Robbie Pickles, president of Cartmel JCR. “Although I do not have the figures to hand, I have heard it will be expensive. In Cartmel, we have entirely superior en-suite accommodation, so there will be a high cost for students who already find themselves paying around £100 a week.”
“Cartmel has massive kitchens, so I think it’s a strange choice as we are a college with plenty of provision already for self-catering”, Pickles added, also saying, “There have been conversations between us [the JCR] and the SCR, but I think it was more a case of the decision being made and then us being asked for feedback, we didn’t have an opportunity to say no to the idea.”
It is expected that in Cartmel College, the emphasis for receiving catering will be on the Barker House Farm facility. It is unclear whether students will have the option of using other University Catering outlets, although it appears that at the original intention was to allow students to eat from a wide choice of food outlets on campus – highlighted by the fact that the scheme is being implemented with the assistance of David Peeks, of the Hospitality Division.
Hillary Simmons, head of the College and Residences office, assures that the opinions of incoming students have been taken into consideration. She said: “There were face to face surveys at Open Days in September and an on-line survey went out to incoming first years early in September. The surveys explained that the University was considering a catering scheme and gave various options to gauge student interest. The demand was high, with about 50% of students expressing an interest.”
Around four to five years ago, the University did offer a Dining Card scheme, allowing students to prepay to purchase food on campus. Simmons adds that “about 20% of students used to opt in [to the Dining Card scheme], but students used to leave the scheme because they were housed in flats with students who were self catering – inevitably they made friends in their flat and wanted to eat with them. That is why the new scheme would set aside specific ‘catered’ houses.”
“Prices are not yet finalised but the indicative price given in the survey for breakfast and dinner was £6.60 a day. This was the option which was most popular in the survey,” said Simmons, confirming that “it is intended to introduce the scheme on a pilot basis for next year, with some houses in Cartmel, Lonsdale and County and also part of Ash House.”
Current students seem to be satisfied with the self-catering accommodation they already have and are dissuaded by the high price of the catered offering.
Annie Barsoum, a first year student in Lonsdale College, says: “I would not choose it at that price. Maybe I would consider it if it was cheaper.” Similarly, Pickles added “I would definitely not have chosen catered accommodation if I had the choice, especially as it is only breakfast and dinner.”
Paul Hannah, also of Lonsdale, agrees: “we’re already spending far too much on rent and it’s going to go up again next year. Most people spend far less than £46 a week on food anyway. It’s just another money-spinner.”