mandatory year abroad students
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University of Warwick will not accommodate upcoming mandatory year abroad cohort upon return in 2020

The University of Warwick announced to students who will be embarking on a mandatory year abroad in the coming weeks that they will not be able to accommodate them on campus upon their return in 2020.

The practice in the past few years was that students are “allocated rooms on campus” after their year abroad, but they are “no longer guaranteed accommodation upon their return”.

Weeks – or potentially days – before Warwick students will be flying to their allocated homes for the coming year, the University announced in an email that their student intake has increased to the extent that they will not be able to accommodate returning students.

For some students, this news has arrived days after they have reached the country in which they will be spending their next academic year. Students residing in South America for the coming year started their term a couple of weeks ago.

It reads: “As you may be aware, our priority for campus accommodation are first year Undergraduate Students and those who have specific requirements and are supported to live on campus. After this we prioritise overseas Postgraduate Students. As our overall student intake increases we have assessed the way we currently allocate accommodation to students.

“You may be aware that in previous years, we have been able to accommodate students returning from a mandatory year abroad on campus. We wanted to make you aware that this will not be the case for those on a mandatory year abroad during the 19/20 academic year, and we will not be able to accommodate students returning from a mandatory year abroad on campus.

It makes an already stressful period even more stressful as we now have no security about where we will be living when we return

– Anonymous Warwick student

From the 2020/21 academic year onwards, “students will only be considered for a place on campus in any final year ballot, should there be availability in a given year as dictated by student numbers”.

The ballot considers applications from all final year students, including those who took a year abroad out of choice. This year’s ballot will take place in Term 1.

Numerous students have expressed severe anxiety regarding the short notice of this email, and fears about what it shall entail for the year of their degree that they have been most looking forward to.

One anonymous student stated: “It makes an already stressful period even more stressful as we now have no security about where we will be living when we return. Finding a house and signing contracts will be extremely difficult from another country.

“It’s a shame that it was something we all thought was guaranteed and now they’ve backtracked just before I leave.”

When asked about the anxiety and stress caused by the news, the University directed students to apply with specific accommodation requirements and said: “If this has affected anyone’s mental health detrimentally then we would advise students to contact Wellbeing Support Services.”

Other students are also questioning the logistics of finding a house, housemates and securing a contract for their final year of study whilst they are not in the country.

Advertising to potential year abroad students from the beginning of their undergrad the possibility of living on campus then taking that away without any explanation is very unfair and false advertising,” another anonymous student said.

Advertising to potential year abroad students from the beginning of their undergrad the possibility of living on campus then taking that away without any explanation is very unfair and false advertising

– Anonymous Warwick student

“An accommodation on campus is a safe choice for students who can’t just fly back home for house viewings and takes off some stress when they’re already having to settle in a foreign country.”

Responding to enquiries from The Boar regarding this issue, the University said: “Campus accommodation for those returning from studying abroad has been available when possible but reviewed on an annual basis.

“All those studying abroad and seeking off-campus accommodation can speak to the Warwick Accommodation team for details of properties available and to ask any questions they wish. We advise all students who will be studying abroad in 2019/20 to contact Warwick Accommodation as soon as the process for securing accommodation opens to ask any questions and support with accommodation applications.”

When asked to comment, the president of Warwick’s Students’ Union (SU) Ben Newsham said: “It is disappointing to hear that the university will no longer be able to offer on campus accommodation to students returning from a mandatory year abroad.

The fact the university has been put in a situation where it is having to prioritise one group of students over another is evidence that their pursuit of ambitious increases to student numbers now needs to be matched by a similarly ambitious approach to investing in the services they provide for those students

– Ben Newsham

“It is of course vital that first year undergraduates, many of whom are living away from home for the first time, are offered on campus accommodation. However, the fact the university has been put in a situation where it is having to prioritise one group of students over another is evidence that their pursuit of ambitious increases to student numbers now needs to be matched by a similarly ambitious approach to investing in the services they provide for those students.

“As more people are given the opportunity to study at Warwick, pressure on the facilities and services we rely on such as study spaces, transportation, accommodation and wellbeing support will only increase. Accommodating an increase in the number of students without compromising on their experience or welfare must be a top priority for the University.

“For those who are affected by this news, the SU Advice Centre is able to provide support throughout the whole process of securing accommodation, from finding housemates to ensuring the contract is fit for purpose. The Advice Centre* can also provide support for those who may be worried or anxious as a result of this change.”

Several have shared their anger that this information comes with no apology from the University.

While Warwick’s student intake is on the increase, the University has also recently invested in new housing for students to accommodate a greater cohort. They said in June that Cryfield Village, for which construction work began in 2017, is “ready for next year’s students to move in this September”.

When asked why accommodating mandatory year abroad students has increased in difficulty in light of ongoing infrastructural investments, the University said: “The planned accommodation building programme is not due to be completed until December 2020.”

*You can access the SU Advice Centre via email at advice@warwicksu.com or phone at 02476572824. More information is also available on their website.

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