Exeter backtracks on housing guarantee

Thirty students have been told to consider private accommodation

First-year students at Exeter College have expressed outrage after a warning that they are unlikely to receive college accommodation in the next academic year.

The college claims to guarantee its students three years of accommodation but as many as thirty current freshers may now need to seek private housing in their second year.

At the start of eighth week, an email informed undergraduates them of “a potential shortfall of about 30 college bedrooms available for the next academic year, 2018-2019,” with “implications for those…currently placed between 146–176 on the housing ballot”.

Students have expressed anger, telling Cherwell that they have been “left in the lurch”.

On Friday of 9th week, Exeter students received another email, informing them of “the efforts the College is making to secure additional accommodation”.

It said: “The Bursar is exploring what, if any, opportunities exist in Oxford for the college to lease a block of student accommodation for the 2018-2019 academic year.

“The reality is that there is hardly any commercial student accommodation that would be acceptable to Exeter students, taking into account location, quality and cost.”

Students were told that they “should be aware that the college may not succeed in finding additional accommodation… many of you may need to consider private letting”.

Private letting is often more expensive than college accommodation. Analysis by Lloyds Bank earlier this year named Oxford the least affordable place to live in the UK.

Students have expressed their frustration at the college for their handling of the situation.

One first-year undergraduate, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Cherwell: “We were basically sent an email saying ‘sorry, sort yourselves out’.

“We haven’t been given proper access to any realistic alternatives, and have been told that the college can’t find any suitable housing.

“I can’t realistically get private housing until I know I will have financial support, as I can’t afford it with my loan. Meanwhile, all the good houses are going.”

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The student also said that guaranteed accommodation was “a major factor” in their choice of college, as they “didn’t want to have to deal with private landlords”.

Another fresher described the situation as “depressing”.

“Telling us to find private housing at the end of Michaelmas is pretty irresponsible,” they said. “The main reasons I applied to Exeter were guaranteed accommodation and the central location.”

Exeter students currently live in accommodation on the college’s Turl Street site, at the recently-opened Cohen Quad on Walton Street, and in four college-owned houses and a graduate block on Iffley Road. The college also has accommodation on Banbury Road, which houses visiting students as part of its exchange programme with Williams College.

This is not the first time that Exeter College has failed to deliver on its guarantees for student accommodation. In 2016, 86 Exeter students were moved into Jury’s Inn, a four-star hotel in Wolvercote, after delays to the opening of Cohen Quad.

Exeter’s JCR position of Domestic and Accommodation Officer is currently vacant, after no candidate stood in the recent elections.

Neither the college nor the accommodation manager responded to a request for comment.