Extra recruitment at the University of Essex led to almost 100 students being placed in temporary accommodation at the start of term, it has emerged.
An email sent by one Essex academic to deputy vice-chancellor Jules Pretty, seen by Times Higher Education, claims that hundreds of first-year undergraduates were without accommodation on arrival. A statement from the university said that the total figure was “a maximum of 94” – 80 of whom shared “temporary twin rooms”, while 14 were housed in an on-campus hotel. One student is known to have transferred to the University of East Anglia after being disappointed by the accommodation on offer.
The scholar’s email also claims that staff had given lectures to first years in which students had to sit in the aisles because of overcrowding. This was “embarrassing” for staff, and a “serious breach of health and safety”, the email says. The university said that “all teaching requirements” had been accommodated.
There was “little if any capacity for…staff to book rooms for extracurricular activities”, the email continues, adding that the teaching timetable at Essex had extended to 7pm to cope with the numbers. A spokeswoman for Essex said that all extracurricular activities had been accommodated, that the timetabling policy had “for many years” provided for lectures to finish at 7pm, and that “only five more lectures” than last year were finishing at this time.
An email sent to Essex staff by Professor Pretty, also seen by THE, describes the growing numbers as “excellent news”, but adds that “the increase has created some challenges, so please bear with the team as they work to address them where it is possible to do so”.
The spokeswoman added: “We have had a highly successful year for student recruitment, and we are committed to ensuring our students are at the heart of all our education provision… In order to meet our ambitious growth targets we will be reviewing our priorities for further investment to ensure our excellence in both education and research is maintained.”
Essex is not the only university reported to have encountered such problems. Research by the BBC found that 200 students at the University of Bristol were doubling up in single rooms, while at the University of Aberdeen, up to 300 were said to be staying in hotels at the start of term.
This year, the cap on student numbers was raised, allowing institutions to recruit up to an additional 30,000 students.