University to 2011 freshers: please don’t come to Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth University has made an effort to highlight the availability of an increased bursary next year for non-UK students, in order to encourage them to defer entry until 2012, as it faces a substantial increase in demand for places in University accommodation. 

Under the accommodation guarantee policy, international students are promised accommodation for the duration of their course. But the University also pledges to house all freshers and with another year of huge numbers of successful applicants, the limited housing stock is under yet more pressure.

Speaking to the BBC, Guild President Ben Meakin described the plea as “particularly concerning” given the Guild’s constant focus on highlighting the lack of accommodation. He criticised the University for using European students as scapegoats for their poor planning.

This August, the University withdrew from clearing for the second year in a row, but the national rise in applications – attributed by some to the tuition fee hike that will hit next year’s applicants – has still been felt in Aberystwyth.

This isn’t the first year that housing shortfalls have hit the University. In 2008, over 50 students were left homeless at the start of term. At the start of the last academic year the Guild President at the time, Jon Antoniazzi, reported that 25 students had been forced to drop out and another 55 were without accommodation.

Speaking about the latest problems, vice-president of the National Union of Students Peter Mercer said: “It is irresponsible for universities to offer places to students when there is not enough local and affordable accommodation in either university or private premises.”

Rebecca Davies, the university Pro Vice Chancellor, denies that the plea to international students was an attempt to make space for UK students – but rather simply letting them know that government-mandated fees plans for next year mean they would be eligible for bigger bursaries if they deferred – “if folks did decide that they wanted to defer, obviously that wouldn’t be something that would make the accommodation crises worse, but it isn’t what we’re looking at – it was a separate thing”