SCAN Investigates: accommodation at Lancaster

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Accommodation, particularly on campus, is ever an inflammatory topic. Each year students are frustrated with the system of deducting money from deposits as collateral for reasons often thought to be vague or dubious by the students affected. Whilst the Head of Colleges and Student Experience, Hilary Simmons, assured SCAN that college residence officers ‘balance many factors’ when deciding upon deductions to be made, and try ‘to ensure a fair and consistent approach [which, to be fair, could be one that is consistently bad] across all colleges’, the fact remains that every year the furore returns without abatement. Given that renovations to accommodation, as part of the campus-wide refurbishments, constitute a key part of the University’s Strategic Plan for improvement, the students’ reception of such material investment is surely of great consequence to the management boffins behind such plans.

With this in mind, in subsequent issues, two Investigations writers will report on their findings regarding campus accommodation.

Chris Bowman will report on his campaign to gain compensation for Pendle College students affected by heating failure in the college’s standard accommodation during the height of the 2011 winter, and the bureaucratic nightmare he has had to negotiate throughout.

Investigations shall also consider the accommodation refurbishments and whether they justify the accompanying increases in accommodation costs. With basic standard accommodation now in very limited supply (the remaining rooms are available only in Bowland College), students living on campus in ‘upgraded’ (formerly basic standard) rooms and who receive only the basic amount of Maintenance Loan will find themselves with a deficit of close to £400 when shelling out for their accommodation. When this issue was put to Hilary Simmons, the response was that the University’s aim is to provide top-quality accommodation to students, as the yearly National Student Housing Survey awards consistently indicate that room-quality if of high importance to students when choosing where to live. Indeed, Lancaster has won the 2012 award for the third consecutive year, meaning that it had the highest level of student satisfaction among its residents. Simmons also indicated that there is no guarantee of accommodation on campus after the first year in halls, but that the University and Students’ Union (LUSU) are committed to helping students make the best decisions for themselves each year regarding their living arrangements.

Rent inflation has been proposed for discussion at LUSU’s General Meeting on Monday, 8th October. This reflects the seriousness with which the Union takes students’ concerns over their living arrangements, and the associated value for money involved. Investigations shall be keeping a close eye on the developments resulting from this debate.

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