We don’t want your students – B&NES tells Bristol

Bath & North East Somerset Council is seeking more information and has expressed “alarm” at reports that the University of Bristol is planning to house first-year students in its area.

Councillor Tom Davies, cabinet member for Adult Services and Council House Building, said: “We are alarmed and concerned about reports, including information placed on their website, that the University of Bristol is suggesting offering accommodation to new students in our area from the start of next term.

We have neither been informed nor consulted on this and we are therefore seeking urgent clarification from the University about their position.

Any decision by the University to accommodate students in our area would have very significant implications for our communities, especially given the existing pressures on local housing. Students deserve good, local accessible accommodation and it is for the University to make appropriate plans for this.

Local residents should not bear the brunt of any lack of preparation by the University of Bristol for the new academic year.”

In reply a spokesperson from the University of Bristol told Bath Newseum:

“Like many other universities, we have had particularly high demand for places in student residences this year.

“Students who had firmly accepted an offer to study here and made us their first choice are guaranteed a place in university-allocated accommodation in Bristol.

“Those who put Bristol as an insurance offer, or are returning, may be offered the option of low-cost shared rooms or accommodation nearby in Bath. We are also providing support and advice to students if they wish to find private accommodation in Bristol. 

“We have the option to house around 300 students in Bath if needed. However, we are doing our best to accommodate as many students as we can in Bristol, so the final number could be much lower.

“All beds will be in purpose-built student accommodation, with the majority of these in residences leased from Bath Spa University. The remainder, if required, will be provided in existing, private student accommodation in the city. 

“Students will get a free travel bursary and will have access to our pastoral services including on-site support.”

Reading behind the lines l am hearing that other universities are having to consider similar things – it’s not just Bristol.

It’s my understanding Bristol saw a significant increase in the number of applicants prioritising the university as their first choice this year and, with the introduction of teacher-assessed grades,  75 per cent of students met the terms of their offer at Bristol – up from a pre-pandemic average of around 46 per cent (from 2017 to 2019), so this really is an unprecedented situation.

However, some will say universities are being greedy in taking on so many applicants and – after a year in which the grading system has had the brakes taken off it – how many who pay their first year’s fees will then drop out?