Scores of students at one of the world’s top universities are being forced to share single bedrooms or stay in hotels due to a chronic accommodation shortage sparked by a rush of EU students enrolling ahead of Brexit.
The University of Warwick is famous for its MBA courses teaching the world’s brightest applicants how to run a business. However, "university failures and mismanagement" have resulted in around 120 new undergraduates being made to share bedrooms with strangers. At least another 150 postgraduate students are being put up in hotels this term after they were told there was no longer enough room to accommodate them on campus, in a move student union leaders have said prioritises money above student welfare. Students sharing bedrooms are told they can have their own space if and when others begin to drop out.
One student beginning his Masters degree even said he had been told to “sleep in a classroom” as a result of the crisis, a claim the university later denied. Ben Harris said he was offered “room to sleep in a classroom until the end of September”, and for a few weeks afterwards “the best they could do is arrange cut rates at a hotel”.
He added that he had had “no luck” looking for alternatives so far. “If I continue to struggle, however, I will certainly be utilising offers of study elsewhere.”
Speaking to The Independent, a university spokesperson cited Brexit as one of the main causes for the crisis, since unexpected numbers of European students have hurried to accept places before Britain leaves the EU.
Peter Dunn, director of press and policy at Warwick, said Brexit had introduced “a great degree of uncertainty to student recruitment”. “We expected the number of non-British EU students to fall after the referendum,” he said, “but what actually happened was the number of acceptances increased.”
Unprecedented numbers of students across the board have accepted places at the last minute or through clearing in order to escape a potential hike in fees next year.
There has also been a substantial rise in the number of postgraduate students from “across the world” taking up places at Warwick, Mr Dunn added, leading to severe over-recruitment that has reduced the number of available rooms even further.
"We try to make the number of students match the number of rooms, but it is impossible to tell exactly how many will accept – and this year the university was more popular than ever.
Dozens of freshers have taken to a University of Warwick Facebook group to complain of unexpected accommodation struggles.
Sarah McHugh, a first-year undergraduate student from Preston, said she had been placed in a shared single room in the Westwood student halls for lack of alternative options. “If I am to be completely honest, I’m really not happy about having to share a room,” she said. “I will have no privacy and the room is only a single so it will be really claustrophobic. I’m nervous to start now.”
Another student, Kieran O’Shea from London, said: “I'm not exactly keen, being someone who likes to have their own private space, also the fact of whether or not I'll like this person and what they'll be like. It'll be a bit weird having to share my entire lifestyle with a complete stranger ... it has made me have some extra concerns consequently dampening excitement about starting university.”
In a statement on its website, Warwick student union said it was aware that many incoming students were affected by “a severe lack of accommodation due to over-recruitment by the university”.
The student union’s postgraduate officer, Nat Panda, said it was the fourth year in succession that postgraduate students had been left without rooms due to “mismanagement by the University”.
“Every year, we are given assurances that it won’t happen again – and then, 12 months down the line, the situation invariably worsens,” he added.
“There are students who applied for their courses in the spring – and accommodation as early as May – who are now hearing that they are not being offered any permanent accommodation just a week before they are due to arrive.
Not only is this situation utterly unacceptable, it is avoidable – demonstrating once again the negative effects of systemic failures within the university
“Students in this position include those who have already spent thousands of pounds on visas, travel costs and even course fees, taken out expensive commercial loans, have given up their jobs, have potentially uprooted their families, or have rejected offers at other universities (including those who were able to provide accommodation).
"Not only is this situation utterly unacceptable, it is avoidable – demonstrating once again the negative effects of systemic failures within the University and the dangers of a marketised education system whereby student welfare is traded off against money in the bank."
Research compiled by property agent JLL estimates that a shortage of student accommodation across the country has left three students competing for every available bed this year.
Currently, EU-member students are entitled to study in the UK for the same price as UK citizens, but could be subject to a hike in fees once the country leaves the EU, resulting in a last minute rush for places.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
A University of Warwick spokesperson said: “UK postgraduate student recruitment has always contained a significant degree of uncertainty, but this year the university has seen a significantly higher number of people meeting and accepting of offers to study or research at postgraduate level.
“We currently have 154 postgraduate students in hotels. Of those 154 we can already offer 60 rooms, leaving 94 students who will all be found accommodation, either on campus or through the private sector.
“There were 120 undergraduate students doubled up in large single rooms, which is fewer than in previous years. that figure has already dropped from 60 sharing rooms to 50.
“The University of Warwick has pledged £90m towards building more accommodation for students on campus, including 267 more rooms for next year."