…if they agree to live in halls in Liverpool x
Ah, the first few weeks of uni. Your dad treating you to a nice non-stick pan from Wilko’s. Your mum weeping as you say goodbye. Parties. Foam parties. Neon parties. Zoo parties. Hooking up with strangers. Bickering over taking the bins out. Eating pesto pasta seven days a week.
Then waking up at the crack of dawn to commute 34 miles across the country just to make it to your 9am seminar.
This is the reality hundreds of incoming students are facing this year. At UWE, students have been offered accommodation in Newport, nearly an hour away from the main campus in Bristol. Over at Manchester Metropolitan University, some have been offered £100 a week to live in accommodation as far away as Liverpool and Huddersfield.
Earlier this week, incoming MMU students waiting for accommodation updates received a message on the university’s accommodation portal, which notified offer-holders that demand for student housing in Manchester was far outstripping supply. It went on to offer students the chance to stay in halls “a short distance” from the uni – AKA, 30 fucking miles away in Liverpool and Huddersfield.
MMU has assured students these halls are a “15-minute walk”... from a train station, where students can get on a 40-minute train to Manchester (but as anyone who has ever attempted to board a train in England will know, delays and cancellations are basically guaranteed, so it’s likely the train journey alone would take closer to an hour). There’s then another 15-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly to the MMU campus. Students who have been offered accommodation in locations over 30 miles away from Manchester – “around two per cent of undergraduate students planning to join” in September, according to the Manchester Evening News – will receive £100 a week to cover additional living and travelling expenses.
Similarly, as reported by the Financial Times, Bristol UWE said 533 first-year students were on the waiting list for university-allocated rooms after a “high volume of applications”. It also offered to pay travel costs for students who agreed to take on university rooms “within commuter distance” in Newport, Wales – a different country to the UWE campus – and said otherwise students would have to use the private rental market.
This is something, at least, but still kind of ignores the fact that it’s not just about the money. People often apply to unis because they like the city and want to make the most of everything it has to offer – and if you were expecting to spend your weekends traipsing around the Northern Quarter or pretending you’re in Skins, you’ll likely be feeling a bit miffed that you’re now going to be living in the second worst place to live in the UK or visting a cathedral. No shade to Huddersfield and Newport (I love a good cathedral) – but you can’t deny that they have very different vibes to Manchester and Bristol respectively.
“Bristol has become an increasingly popular city to live in,” UWE said. “This, combined with the increasing demand for university places and the rise in the cost of living, has placed additional pressure on our accommodation and the rental market.” Similarly, MMU explained that the crisis has arisen as “significantly more offer-holders than anticipated” have met their conditions and been accepted as students.
“While we continue to work hard to secure accommodation for them in the city region, we are now providing temporary options with our private hall partners in Liverpool and Huddersfield. We will cover travel costs to Manchester for any students who take up this offer,” they said. “We know that this will be disappointing for them, and we are doing everything we can to find them rooms in Manchester as soon as we can.”
Who knows – maybe the freshers lumped together in these far-flung halls will form a special bond? Maybe in ten years’ time, they’ll be reminiscing at the pub about “that wild time we lived in the wrong city and had to commute for an hour to get to our lectures”? Maybe it’s character-building? I hope so, but I don’t know. Whichever way you slice it, living an hour away from the uni you applied to is… not great. Thoughts and prayers with these unlucky freshers.