Who said university's like a holiday camp? Beds crisis sees students sent to Pontin's


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The Independent Online

A crisis in accommodation has prompted one university to urge students to defer entry for a year and another to put them up at a Pontin's holiday camp.

Aberystwyth University has written to all the non-UK European students it has offered a place to ask if they would mind waiting until September 2012. It warns it cannot guarantee to find them accommodation this year.

Meanwhile, Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire, is placing some of its students in holiday apartments at Pontin's in Southport after campus halls have filled up.

The students will have an en suite swimming pool and supermarket. Bedrooms will also be fitted with TVs – for which the licence will have already been paid.

The emergency measures come as universities have seen the biggest ever scramble for places as thousands of candidates try to enrol before new fee charges of up to £9,000 a year kick in.

Aberystwyth is likely to have more luck persuading European students to delay. Under European Union regulations, they will be entitled to the same subsidy as Welsh domicile students for whom the Welsh Assembly is picking up the tab for any charge above £3,000 a year from September 2012. The university is charging the full £9,000.

It is also introducing a European means-tested bursary worth £1,100.

A university source said: "Aberystwyth is prone to these sorts of problems. It is a small town and it only takes a bit of a nudge – a few hundred students – and it cannot find places." At Edge Hill, the university has seen applications increase four-fold over the past decade.

Peter Mercer, vice-president of the National Union of Students, 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."

Research published yesterday, though, indicates that the same problems are unlikely to occur again. According to the National Foundation for Educational Research, only one in five students say they will not be changing their plans to go to university next year as a result of the fees rise.

In what is probably the most authoritative insight into the impact of the new fees regime, 26 per cent said they would look to a local university so they could stay at home, 17 per cent said they would study for degrees at local further-education colleges – which will charge less – or go abroad to university and 15 per cent had changed their mind about higher education, while 19 per cent said they would only consider universities charging less than £9,000.

No Vacancies

*Accommodation crises have become part and parcel of university life as the percentage of young people enrolling in higher education rises. About 45 per cent of this year's school leavers are going on to university, compared with only 6 per cent in the 1960s.

*Three years ago, about 100 students at Aberdeen ended up in a Premier Travel Inn when the university could not find accommodation for them.

*St Andrews University suffered a unique housing crisis five years earlier, when a sudden spike in student numbers was caused by Prince William enrolling as a student. Large numbers of first-year students had to sleep in common rooms, reading rooms and offices as a result.

*The previous year, students at Southampton University found they had to share single rooms with a stranger because of a shortage. Students complained that it was no better than sleeping in a boarding school dormitory. Others were temporarily housed in hotels.