Student accommodation: Where to start?

Moving to university can be a daunting yet crucial experience for many young people pursuing their dream degree. Manchester Metropolitan University is located on the outskirts of the city centre with most of the university buildings and student accommodation being based in Hulme.

 

Hulme
‘Stretford Road Hulme’, Gene Hunt, Flickr.com, Licenced by CC 2.0 

 

Choosing the right accommodation can greatly impact the overall university experience as all students need to find halls that are within their budget of their maintenance loan and choose a home for the next year that will make them feel the most comfortable in a new city.

Manchester Metropolitan University has various options of halls which offer students a comfortable space to study and socialise. Student accommodation enables young people to live in a safe environment and allows them to make friends with other young people that also attend the university.

Moving away from home comforts can be very difficult for many young people as it can be a struggle to settle in. Therefore a student’s living situation can be just as important as their academic pursuits. An interview with 1st-year student Naomi Armstrong, 19, shows her transition as she talks about moving to university highlighting both the positives and negatives of the overall experience.

Residential advisors, commonly known as (RAs) are a team of second and third-year students that also live in student accommodation and are studying various courses at the university. The main aim of their role is to provide support and comfort for other new students in their first year struggling with various pastoral issues.

RAs visit their allocated houses/flats to check that everyone has no issues or enquiries, sometimes they can just be someone to listen to the problems someone is facing. RAs at the MMU Birley Campus provide a daily drop-in session in reception from 6-7pm every evening which allows students to talk comfortably outside of their home environment.

Devon Holmes, 23, a residential advisor at MMU said that “[she] did not enjoy living in a student house in Fallowfield during her second year of university and [she] therefore decided that [she] would apply to be a residential advisor during [her] third year.” As Devon had lived in the Birley fields campus previously during her first year of university she felt she had the experience to help and guide other freshers in their new living arrangements.

Devon says how she is a “point of call” for all new students struggling to adapt to university life. She looks after 6 houses – 72 students in total – by visiting regularly and is on call one night a week. This means that she has a phone designated to her that she has to answer throughout the night if any problems or issues arise. Every night of the week an RA at MMU can be contacted by anyone in need.

Studying Primary Education, Devon said that she sees the work that the RAs do as ‘vital’ as she loves to help others. MMU says that “RAs can help resolve student queries, flatmate concerns, study issues, and much more.” Their own experience and knowledge of being a student means that they are not only a friendly face but someone who can relate to a student’s current situation because they have experienced the same issue themselves.

One of the key issues that Devon said that she has helped to deal with is new students who feel homesick during the initial struggle to settle in and make new friends. Although, throughout the year more issues arise with money as the lack of budgeting becomes evident. As it comes to the end of the academic year and the stress of exams and deadlines kicks in it can lead students to go to their residential advisor for help and guidance.

As she has seen a number of students that live in Birley struggle with money, Devon agrees that it is “not cheap” to live in the Birley accommodation offered at MMU but she would “rather pay to live in Birley than any other student accommodation because of how nice it is.” She informed me of a ‘Hardship loan” of £50 which can be applied for by students to help them with money to get to their next maintenance loan payment. This information would be vital to a student struggling to make ends meet.

Speaking to another student in their first year of university living in the Daisy Bank accommodation, Denby Turner, 19, she says how difficult it was to make new friends. She reflects on her university experience negatively.

It is important that students pick an accommodation which is affordable for them and within their budget so that they do not struggle with money during their time at university. Students are urged to seek help from their own RA for help on any issues they may be facing and to help make their overall university experience more enjoyable.

So in short; where to start? Check your budget, don’t be shy with those that are there to help. And who knows, you might even end up feeling like your halls are your home.

Birley on a Budget

Fears that poor money management is leading to distractions from university studies as students say “all they can think about is money”.

Birley Halls

The Birley fields Campus is one of the many student accommodations available whilst studying at Manchester Metropolitan University. Residents of the Birley campus are in the ultimate location as the accommodation is a short walk from the city centre.

The self-catered accommodation is said to be (by the university’s own website) “cosy, comfortable and contemporary” as the flats and townhouses available at Birley make for a picturesque place to stay. They have been fully fitted and furnished and have spacious open plan communal areas to relax in. “These fantastic residences offer cute and comfy accommodation that is the perfect pick for balancing your studies with a thriving and enjoyable student and home life.” But is this accommodation really affordable for a student?

The price of living in one of the Birley townhouses costs £133 a week, £5719 for 43 weeks (the full academic year). This is the cheapest Birley accommodation as rooms that cater for Ensuites cost a staggering £147 a week.

The minimum- maximum maintenance loan for living away from home outside London is £4,637- £8,200 a year but depends entirely on your current household income or any extra support that you can apply for. Students that receive the minimum student maintenance loan of £4,637 would ultimately be £1,082 short for paying their rent, forgetting all about other basic necessities such as food and toilet roll.

Harry McCausland, 19, student living in the Birley accommodation commented that he “didn’t realise how hard it would be to handle [his] money”. Although he has a job and receives the maximum student loan, he has still hit the maximum amount on his overdraft of £1500.

Harry said that “At the start of university, [he] spent a lot of money in order to socialise and make friends- this involved going out a lot. Now all [he] can think about is money and how [he] can save it” – ultimately distracting him from his studies.

Another student living in the Birley student accommodation, Gianni Sammartano, 18, agreed that “money definitely stresses [him] out”.

Eleanor Mannoukas, 19, who lives in one of the Birley townhouses said that her parents “Look after [her] loan, which they drip feed to [her] on a monthly basis” this helps her to manage her money. After her dad was made redundant she says that ‘it was hard for [her] parents to help her with money and that [she] is lucky that [her] loan covers the cost of the accommodation.”

The question appears to be, is living comfortably (or arguably in luxury compared to some students) worth the extra scrimping and settling for unbranded baked beans?

Carnage in Cambridge

Messy, unkempt and unhygienic. Are poor living conditions at the hands of the university or its students?

The Manchester Metropolitan University Cambridge Halls of residence are located at the heart of the main campus, and what the university’s website calls a “perfect choice for students looking to throw themselves into absolutely everything that the university has to offer”.

The self-catered accommodation allows for the independence that many new students crave. The Cambridge halls of residence are said to be “comfortable and vibrant residences that offer the perfect environment for making friends and meeting people.” But is this really the case?

 

The Cambridge Halls are the cheapest accommodation that MMU has to offer with a classic bedroom in a 42-week contract costing £106 per week for students joining the university in 2017/18. This is cheaper than last years cost of £108 per week. The question of why the cost of this accommodation decreasing when the cost of other MMU halls are increasing remains a mystery.

Laura Davies, 19, first-year student living in Cambridge Halls said that: “the halls are very sociable but there have been a lot of issues”.

The accommodation which she pays £108 a week for only has two showers between ten students which she says has been one of the main issues.

Showers getting blocked isn’t the only issue Cambridge residents face; Laura explains how one of the boys that lived in their flat at the start of the year had to move out because “he couldn’t handle it” and said he couldn’t sleep because of the noise.

Flickering lights, carpets soaked because of their leaking shower and bare plaster on the walls. Is this the environment that students should be beginning their university experience in? Can anyone really call this a home?