Aberystwyth's whole new slant on taking your work home

June 9, 2011

The idea of an academic who cannot get enough of their students and wants to see them over the breakfast table might be expected to provoke laughter or set the alarm bells ringing.

But under a scheme publicised last week, staff at Aberystwyth University are being asked to consider just such a start to their day.

The university's Rent a Room programme is based on so-called Homestay schemes, which encourage local families to take in students.

The aim is to increase the accommodation pool and offer a "home-from-home" experience. The scheme may also bring in extra income for cash-strapped staff.

In a bid to encourage participation, Aberystwyth is offering interest-free loans to help staff spruce up their homes, with the aim of "ensuring that the rooms offered meet with the requirements of students in terms of furniture and equipment".

Until now, the scheme has been restricted to part-time and temporary students. Faced with a shortage of accommodation last year, Ursula Byrne, an administrator in the initial teacher education and training department, advertised for landlords, sent out a bulk email to staff - and took in some trainees herself.

"People like to be able to help," said Ms Byrne. "Older landlords like the security of having someone else in the house and enjoy having younger people around who are lively and fresh. I hope we can offer a viable package to students that is sometimes cheaper and more comfortable than standard university accommodation."

Although the students she took in were older than the typical undergraduate and stayed just a few weeks, Ms Byrne said the experience had not been all plain sailing. Among the irritations, she said, were lodgers who failed to put out the bins and stayed up late working.

With the vices of undergraduates likely to be considerably more trying, it remains to be seen how many Aberystwyth staff will take up the university's inducements - and how many decide that, as far as students are concerned, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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