Outrage over ‘scandalous’ accommodation fees

The planned "hub", featuring shop, cafe and facilities

The planned hub, featuring shop, cafe and facilities

ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY has revealed the new student accommodation prices for the upcoming academic year. The prices for the new Penglais Farm accommodation, confirmed to cost £120.05 per week for a standard single, accumulates to £4,802 for the 40 week contract. Also on offer are studio flats priced at £133.00 per week, £6650 for the 50 week contract.

The price difference between the single rooms for Penglais Farm and the Pantycelyn accommodation have caused considerable controversy. With Penglais Farm costing £11.55 more per week, which amounts to £1268.00 more over the full contract, without the inclusion of food, the suitability of Penglais Farm from the Welsh community students’ move there in the 2014/15 academic year is being questioned.

“It is completely ridiculous that any student wanting to live in the Welsh medium halls would now be expected to pay a scandalous amount of money to do so in Penglais Farm,” said Aberystwyth Students’ Union Welsh Language Officer, Eiri Sion, a strong supporter of the BYG protests against Pantycelyn’s closure.

Expressing her disapproval, she continued; “I know I personally, and most of my friends at Pantycelyn, would not have been able to afford that, and would have had to give up on the idea of living in a community that means so much to us.”

Former UMCA member, and current postgraduate, Osian Elias, said; “It’s disappointing that the university hadn’t forewarned students of these prices, especially in the context of the Pantycelyn protests and the huge increase in cost when comparing the cost of Pantycelyn to Penglais Farm. Students have already been applying for next year’s accommodation, and it isn’t clear why the university hadn’t communicated these price increases to UMCA.”

“In relation to the Language Impact Assessment that was carried out it’s shocking that there was no worthwhile discussion of the price increase in the report, or the effect that this might have on the language. The university are fond of drawing comparisons in relation to Penglais Farm; it’s a shame they didn’t consider the pricing of Bangor’s new Welsh-medium hall which is over a £1000 cheaper than Penglais Farm.”

In response to concerns over the pricing, Aberystwyth University has stated: “The University is keen to ensure that the Welsh-speaking community of students enjoys the best accommodation that the University has to offer.”

“The daily rate for a single room in Pantycelyn for the academic year 2014/15 will be £ 15.50 and at Fferm Penglais the daily rate will be £ 17.15. For historical reasons, the accommodation licence for Pantycelyn has been for term-time only which is set at 32.57 weeks for 14/15, compared with licence lengths of between 38.29 to 40 weeks in all other accommodation in halls of residence at the University. This has meant that residents in Pantycelyn have had to vacate their rooms and move or store all their belongings from the hall during Christmas and Easter vacations.”

“The fees reflect the quality and nature of the facilities that are offered on Fferm Penglais. These include our standard services across all residences; e.g. electricity, network connectivity and contents insurance for personal possessions for students.”

A typical room

An artists’ impression of a Penglais Farm room

“In addition Fferm Penglais offers a higher standard of residential experience with generously sized en-suite facilities, 1.2 metre wide beds, and 15m2 overall bedroom size, plus dedicated lounge areas with TV’s as part of each kitchen diner within each flat. The University guarantees accommodation for all first year students and a Residence Bursary that offers a £400 discount off accommodation fees is available to students who make Aberystwyth a firm choice by 30 June 2014.”

In addition to the contrast between accommodations, the new Penglais Farm prices will also pose a challenge to students with low household incomes receiving the minimum maintenance loan, which is intended to help with living costs such as food, accommodation and travel. With the cost of student living on the rise, the announcement that student loans will only rise by 1% for the 2014/15 academic year means students will be hard-pressed to meet the extra living costs.

The minimum loan for low income households (£25,000 or less) in 2013/14 for students studying outside of London was £3,823. A 1% rise for 2014/15 equates to only £3861.23, leaving students £940.77 short off the yearly payment for a standard single at Penglais Farm. This deficit indicates that even with the aforementioned £400 discount first year students will be awarded, students will still struggle to cover their basic living needs.