Room at the inn for freshers

September 28, 2001

Hundreds of freshers are being lodged in temporary accommodation because their universities have recruited more students than expected.

Beds have been moved into dining rooms and even old bars to house the students. Others found themselves in rooms above pubs or several miles away from their university.

A record number of 4,000 new students joined the University of Leicester this week and halls of residence have been unable to cope.

The Beaumont hall of residence has had its music room, common rooms and games room filled with beds.

Students may have to remain in temporary accommodation for several weeks. Student union president Peter Lewis said: "Every student, especially those who are away from home for the first time, needs to feel comfortable."

Housing officials in the city are preparing contingency plans for De Montfort University. For the first time in ten years, the university is exploring using bed and breakfast accommodation. It admits that it may have students on floors in sleeping bags.

Meanwhile, Newcastle University has 3,788 freshers this year, 400 more than last year, which has caused accommodation problems.

The university blamed the situation partly on the fact that some exam boards failed to declare their results on time, meaning it did not know the number of students due to arrive until very late. About 300 students had to be housed in emergency accommodation. They may be eligible for a rent allowance and subsidised taxi fares.

Another overflowing institution is the University of Reading, which has had to bring back into service 200 rooms earmarked for redevelopment. Another 200 freshers are temporarily in rooms allocated to other students. The university may have to bring back room sharing.

Tony Downes, pro vice-chancellor for resources, said: "We have certainly exceeded our best estimates (for student numbers) about which we are very pleased, but we have had to do some late planning for accommodating them."

Many of these problems will sort themselves out as some students drop out during the first term, said universities.

* The Welsh Assembly has announced that it will help a new student accommodation housing deposit safety scheme get off the ground in Cardiff, after 170 students lost deposits to an unscrupulous letting agent, writes Brian Morgan .

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