The head of Worcester College has been criticised after he encouraged students to oppose a new accommodation building for Exeter students. The plans, which entail a redevelopment of the former Ruskin College buildings, are to take place on the northern perimeter of Worcester’s grounds and seek to provide around 100 rooms of accommodation for Exeter’s students.

Worcester’s concerns are founded on the “excessive elevation” of the proposed new building and the “inappropriately garish and intrusive materials proposed for its roof and upper level”, according to an email received by students last week.

The email then goes on to inform students of the ways in which they could make valid complaints to the council, should they so wish, and warns them that a simple complaint such as “I don’t like the look of it” would not suffice. This is followed by a list of objections that would be deemed valid according by the council, focusing mainly on issues of design and scale.

The message concludes by stating that if a student objected to the plans after taking “a few minutes” to look over them, the college would be “most grateful” if they made this objection known to the council. Exeter’s JCR President, Edward Nickell, has criticised the email, telling Cherwell, “The Provost has an obligation to protect heritage sites on his land, but he should recognise that the student priority should be for more housing.

“He has to defend the site, but it’s above the call of duty to encourage students to do the same.” 

Exeter has already compromised on the materials used on the wall of the building. However, Worcester still objects to its height.

Exeter currently offers accommodation to all first year students and 30% of finalists, whereas Worcester are able to offer accommodation to undergraduates for three years.

Exeter’s Rector, Ms. Frances Cairncross, explained the difficulty in reaching an agreement over the height of the building. “To meet Worcester’s request for a reduction in the height of the roof line at the western end of our site would mean the loss of 14 student rooms. “As Exeter is particularly short of student accommodation, the consequence would be that 14 of our students each year lost the opportunity of city centre accommodation at affordable rents.”

Worcester’s Provost, Professor Jonathan Bate, explains the email by asserting that “The JCR, MCR and Governing Body asked me to keep them informed as to whether a compromise had been achieved, and to let them know how to object in the event that it wasn’t.”

Worcester’s Provost, Professor Jonathan Bate, explains the email by asserting that “The JCR, MCR and Governing Body asked me to keep them informed as to whether a compromise had been achieved, and to let them know how to object in the event that it wasn’t.”

Nikita Hayward, a first year Worcester student, commented, “If Exeter College took the top storey off their proposed development, and chose more discreet materials for their building (especially that of the roof) then they could still provide more space for their own students.” 

Yet one Exeter student said, “I hope that even after only taking ‘a few minutes’ examining the application, Worcester students will recognize the positive impact of the proposal and the consideration of the local community. “Hopefully this will persuade students, despite the attempts of the Provost, what a wonderful proposal for our College, local  community and University this is.”