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Lancaster University prides itself on its award-winning accommodation, but is that accommodation being maintained to a high enough standard? There have been a number of complaints regarding on-campus accommodation; many of these are due to kitchen appliances and other utilities not being fixed in a timely manner.
A report from Pendle College shows that it took maintenance staff several weeks to fix a broken toilet seat after the problem had been reported and students living in studio accommodation had to wait five weeks for their microwave to be replaced. There have also been instances of some of the rooms in Graduate College lacking hanging space for clothing, even though specifications for the room state there should be a full wardrobe with said fixtures. This particular issue is currently being investigated by the Accommodation team.
Issues have also arisen because of noise complaints, especially in the centre of campus and in Bowland Tower, as there is usually a compromise between the convenience of being close to Alexander Square and the noise from surrounding students. SCAN was informed that room transfers are not always possible, as this often just moves the problem to someone else, however in extreme circumstances, disruptive students will be moved, or flats can be separated.
There is obviously a spike in complaints reported at the start of the year as students first move into their rooms, although the number of problems which need to be resolved over the summer has steadily been decreasing over the last few years. The number of issues raised over the academic year reaches the tens of thousands and as the most important problems are prioritised (often major problems with lights, electricity and water), this has lead to more minor instances not being addressed for a number of weeks.
Overall, student opinion of college porters has been very positive, with students from Graduate College and Pendle reporting that their porters have been helpful and can easily help to resolve problems. However, problems do seem to arise when issues are not resolved quickly. This is most likely because the porters’ offices are not well equipped to pursue problems at a higher level. It seems there is a disconnect between the systems the University has in place to raise issues to the appropriate people and common student knowledge, which would perhaps be alleviated by making contact details more obvious to students.
The University Accommodation team have urged students to speak to their Accommodation Managers if they have experienced a fault, especially if a report has been made but nothing has been done to fix it. Issues with behaviour should be directed towards College Wellbeing Officers, while basic maintenance faults should be reported using the LUFix app or to the Facilities help desk at University House reception.
Pursuing complaints not only makes it more likely that they will be resolved quickly, but gives valuable data regarding what problems need to be fixed during the next refurbishment cycle. The Accommodation team stress that the majority of issues arise from problems occurring but not being reported.
So, has on-campus accommodation maintained its high-quality status? Lancaster has received the International Accreditation every year since it has entered the survey, and as a whole, the number of complaints has been decreasing. However, it is hard to know if this is entirely due to a reduction in problems or a lack of student awareness of how to make complaints. It appears that the experience for both students and staff could be enhanced by improving clarity in the channels of communication, and providing a system to direct complaints to that’s easier to understand.