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After tuition fees, accommodation is the most expensive aspect of any student’s life at university, and now it’s more important than ever to make sure that we’re getting good value for our money. Lancaster City Council have recently approved the building of a new five-storey apartment block that will house 79 students, adding to the plethora of choices concerning accommodation that students already have. Andrew Stanyon, developer of this new building, was quick to point out the originality and benefits of it for students: “This is a new concept in interactive living. We’re going to look at the catering side of it, bringing people in from the local college to cook, and also encourage Come Dine With Me events, so you’d have students from different unis coming in for an event, and vice versa. We want to encourage different ways of using the building.” This sounds extravagant on paper, and will surely be costly for students – so is it really necessary given what we have already?
Despite controversy surrounding rent increases and the effects of inflation year on year, on-campus accommodation is, I think, underrated. I wasn’t expecting much from student accommodation when I came to university, particularly when I learnt that my friends would be in ‘superior en-suite’ whereas I would be in ‘basic en-suite’. But the accommodation that I have is surprisingly good – the rooms are a lot bigger than most, the kitchen and bathroom are both functioning well, particularly the shower which is better than the one I have at home. Whenever anything breaks, the service has been excellent; I could report something in the evening and have it fixed by ten o’clock the next morning. Yes, the rent is high and will increase year on year, and I do resent having to put up with what is practically a camp-bed and a lumpy mattress, but in this day and age, I’m pretty satisfied with my current accommodation. On-campus accommodation is good value for money, and with everything either recently renovated or in the process of being renovated, Lancaster University students are lucky.
Then there’s the off-campus accommodation. Again there are a number of choices – Chancellor’s Wharf, LUSU Living, Yellow Door Lets, private companies, City Block… not forgetting the new building set to be available for next year’s students. With a little bit of patience and house-hunting, you can find a variety of conditions and can choose whether you’re prepared to spend a bit more for more comfort (for example, en-suite accommodation in City Block) or compromise and find cheaper housing. There’s now not even a need to sort out your own bills for the majority of housing in town. All are in good locations, and you get the added experience of living in a house to boot.
This new proposal to build what seems to be catered accommodation in town, however, appears too good to be true. As one objector to the proposal pointed out, instead of an idyllic ‘Come Dine With Me’ style living, “views into the accommodation by passers by are more likely to see overflowing bins and empty bottles and mess.” Although perhaps an exaggeration, it is true that students are renowned for not being the tidiest of people, particularly concerning the kitchen. Above all, though, would students actually want to participate in ‘Come Dine With Me’ events? The majority of students would surely admit not being great at cooking, and personally the thought of cooking for a lot other people fills me with dread.
It’s time to stop complaining about the accommodation that we have at the moment. This new proposal is just adding more unnecessary choice to what is already, I think, a great accommodation system. We couldn’t have more choice about where we want to live and the service is great. It would be nice if it was a bit cheaper, but unfortunately, in tough economic times, that is just wishful thinking. Be grateful for what you have; things could be a whole lot worse.