by Liam Cassidy, News Editor, @cashdee
Many first-year Queen’s University students from Northern Ireland are to be left with no university owned accommodation for the start of the 2014/15 academic year. The end of the summer has proven to be an anxious time for many home students bound for Queen’s, as the allocation of accommodation places has been dragged out over a number of weeks.
In an email sent out on August 28th Queen’s Accommodation, the department of the University responsible for allocating accommodation places, blamed “the increased volume of applications from eligible students” for the extended waiting period for Northern Irish applicants. In the same email, Queen’s Accommodation revealed that students who lived within a 19.13-mile radius of Belfast, “up to and including the postcode area BT25, will not receive an accommodation offer for the start of the academic year”.
This email came at the end of a tense two-week period for a number of home students who were repeatedly kept waiting for information on the allocation of places in Elms Village while international and GB students attending Queen’s were all allocated rooms. One student who spoke to the Gown, Cordelia McGeown, was left exasperated by this waiting period. “I have called accommodation four times […] and each time I called I was told a later date for when Northern Irish students would be allocated”.
“One of the major problems,” Cordelia explained, “is the lack of information. On the 14th [of August, A level results day] we were told that allocation emails would be out on the 18th. What was not made clear was that the 18th was for international students and GB students.”
Queen’s finally settled on August 25th to begin looking at NI applicants and announced this through Facebook.
A number of students took to the Facebook pages of Queen’s Accommodation and the unofficial group “Queen’s Freshers.” It was through these forms of communication that many students learned that instead of allocating a first come first serve basis, as some expected when they applied at the beginning of the summer, applications from Northern Ireland would be dealt with according to post code and distance from the university.
This is not a new policy however, and Queen’s Accommodation has allocated places on this basis for a number of years, and its aim is logical in prioritizing those students who have farther to travel to attend university. However, many students claim that this policy was not made clear during the application process.
Due to the misunderstanding, many students began to look at alternative housing arrangements in case they did not secure university housing. To facilitate this, students began using Queen’s University Fresher’s page as well as that of Queen’s Accommodation.
One student took it upon themselves to found a page with the exclusive purpose of providing a hub for students to make alternative housing arrangements. ‘QUB Accommodation Rejects’ was founded on the 26th of August, and when asked what prompted such action, the founder said “I made this page because it was apparent to a lot of people that we were not going to be given
accommodation because of the postcode sorting.”
“QUB have been very inconsistent with their info,” they continued, “as students were told they would know by Monday 18th August, then that date passes and QUB said it would be Friday 22nd August before everyone knew”.
After August 28th however, those students ruled out by the cut-off distance of 19 miles could begin to make alternative arrangements with a degree of certainty, although many have been forced into housing with other students they have only met through Facebook. This has been the main function of the ‘QUB Accommodation Rejects’ page, with regular updates on spare rooms or fellow students willing to organize housing together.
Most recently, Queen’s Accommodation released an update stating their team will continue to work on the allocation process “until all rooms are allocated”, also stating how “the position remains fluid and we will provide updates on a regular basis”. They continued to cite an “increased demand for accommodation” for the ongoing delay for students from Northern Ireland.
This update also contained links to external sites providing accommodation in the private sector, as well as sections of tips and advice for unsuccessful applicants. The recommended sites included NI Student Pad, Gumtree and PropertyPal.
VP Welfare Patrick Sally stressed that concerned students should make contact with the SU.
“The Students’ Union will work with the management of Elms Village to ensure that appropriate information regarding student accommodation options is distributed to our members in a more efficient manner in the future. To help students in search of accommodation, the Students’ Union website has everything that you need to know and more about finding the right home. Our website has all of the information that students need and lots of tips to keep them on the right track.”
The Gown reached out to QUB Accommodation several times for comment but no response was given.