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sophie atherton

campaigns & democracy
s.atherton@uea.ac.uk

what went down at the roundtable: student housing

On the 28th October, I attended a Student Accommodation Roundtable with other various experts on student accommodation to discuss issues that are affecting you: affordability, meaningful student voice and wellbeing. 

A Unipol Survey was released last year, it suggested implementing an affordability factor; 25% of university accommodation stock should not exceed 50% of the maximum student loan.  

Chaired by the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore’s agenda focused on improvements in student accommodation.  

These improvements included more affordable rents, correcting late developments of student purpose-built accommodation and quality of accommodation information provided, and providing transparency around costs of, and profits from accommodation. 

Who can play what role in working together to make improvements? 

Covered regulatory codes run by Unipol and Universities UK, and agreements between universities and private providers.  

Prioritisation of improvements 

We discussed our quick wins: changes were made to the code so that students were better protected, informing students on their housing rights- not every SU offers housing advice, we do, and you can find more about it here

I questioned why students were going for accommodations that where more expensive even if they are unable to afford it. Is it because they seem safer than accommodation that is £50 cheaper a week? Let me know your thoughts on this as I’d be interested in having a chat with you.  

I also asked why it is becoming the norm that student purpose-built accommodation (like Crown Place in the city) is being completed late and as a group we discussed potential regulations that could be tightened. These are key factors that can impact wellbeing whilst studying. I spoke further on what meaningful student voice meant to me to the minister.  

To me it means involving the student representatives from day 1 and as representatives they should be questioning profit figures and what money is spent on improvements, rather than a rent allocation process that will negatively impact next year’s cohort. It needs to be done in partnership. 

We discussed how the Office for Students can look at affordability of student housing under their value for money agenda. The Office for Students oversee universities and are their regulator. I want to know whether you have opinions on housing and the points I made during the roundtable! Whilst this meeting will affect students nationally, I am one of your officers who is involved in how UEA rents are looked at. 

Next week sees the first rent allocation meeting take place, so do let me know your accommodation experience! Get in touch and tell me your experience of how finances allocated to accommodation affect your experience of university at s.atherton@uea.ac.uk 

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