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The true extent of housing crisis at Lancaster is becoming increasingly clear, with students being put up in hotels while space is found for them.
During Freshers’ Week over 20 international students arrived and found that they had nowhere to live. Study Group, who is an international organisation, had exceeded their intake quota for this academic year leaving students in the lurch.
Study Group had told their students that there would be accommodation available for when they arrived at Lancaster without having liaised with the University. With the current shortage of student accommodation in Lancaster when the international students arrived there was nowhere for them to stay. They were booked into rooms at the Holiday Inn.
LUSU Living, the Students’ Union’s housing wing, has been asked to find accommodation for these students. LUSU Living had already been called upon by the University over the summer to find homes for clearing and insurance choice students who could not be put on campus.
Dr. Hilary Simmons, the University’s head of the College and Residences Office, has released a statement saying: “The University has housed 3920 undergraduate and postgraduate first years; this figure included all first years with a guarantee of accommodation and 630 students who were not guaranteed. During clearing all students were informed that acceptance of a place did not guarantee University accommodation. However, the University will do all that it reasonably can to assist them to find their own accommodation.”
Since Freshers’ Week began LUSU Living has been able to accommodate almost all of the students without accommodation, with only 14 students left at the Holiday Inn waiting to be housed by the end of Week One.
“We are monitoring the situation daily”, said Matthew Ward, Manager of LUSU Living. “The property owner has got a lot of people on site working as hard as they can to get it ready and I think that although we have had teething problems with it, once it is there it is going to be great. It is in a great location so I think it will be really popular and a great addition to the student marker for years to come.”
Taking on so many new properties has meant that not all the properties have been up to LUSU’s standard but efforts are being made to correct any issues the tenants might have, even if this means doing more superficial work once the students have moved in. Time scales have been tight and “sometimes they have run over, but it has been unavoidable”, said Ward.
Although there have been teething problems, LUSU officers have been to visit off-campus first years both in their houses and at the old bus deport where a lot of the new postgraduates are now living. “LUSU has made the effort to go out to [the first years] rather than waiting for them to come to us and I think that has helped and awful lot”, said Pete MacMillan, LUSU Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity).
For LUSU it is important that this issue does not happen again. Lancaster is a small city and does not have the capacity to accommodate all second and third years, particularly with the increase of University of Cumbria students in town.
LUSU President, Robbie Pickles said: “I think really there are lessons that need to be learnt and we need to be thinking about next year and make sure that this does not happen again because we could find ourselves in a terrible situation.”
JCR’s were not told the final figure of how many off-campus students they would have until the day before they arrived. For many of the colleges this figure was over 50 freshers.
However, in spite of the issues surrounding accommodation LUSU and JCR officers along with Freshers Reps have worked hard to include off-campus freshers.
Many of the colleges have sent messages over Facebook to keep off-campus freshers up to date with the activities that were going on around campus. For those who didn’t have internet access JCR members have met up with their freshers and informed them of the various activities they could take part in.
“The JCR have been making sure [the freshers] know the events and have enjoyed their company when they have been involved”, said Furness President, Luke Anderson.