University of Kent increases accommodation prices

Accommodation costs at the Canterbury campus of the University of Kent have been increased for another year.

By comparing information supplied on the University website, InQuire has calculated that accommodation prices have increased by an average of £216.29 for the academic year 2016/17. This is based on the price of a room in each college, divided by the number of accommodation types. An average calculated by the University based on the number of rooms available on campus put the average at £168.08.

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The most shocking statistics are that the cost of a regular room in Rutherford College has increased from £3,975.03 to £4,739.70, a hike of £764.67. Larger rooms in Rutherford College have also seen a massive increase in price, going from £4,530.96 in 2015/16 to £5,309.50 for the 2016/17 academic year – an increase of £778.54, or 19.21 per cent.

Almost all of the on-campus accommodation has seen its cost increased, with an extra £101.01 being the minimum increase. Almost all accommodation increased by at least two per cent on the 2015/16 academic year.

The only rooms that haven’t been affected are the rooms in Darwin College, which remain at a price of £4,474.47 a year for a small room, and £5,167.89 for a large room. The University were keen to point out that the rates for Darwin College have been fixed for the 2016/17 academic year.

The most expensive room on campus is now a Keynes studio flat, part of the postgraduate accommodation on campus, which will set postgrads back £10,761.41 for the year. This amount has seen a £342.95 increase for next year, meaning postgraduate students will be spending an extra £100 a term on their accommodation if they are assigned to Keynes Studios.

The most expensive undergraduate accommodation is a large room in Becket Court, which will cost £7,189.21 in the 2016/17 academic year, an increase of £177.94 from this year’s cost of £7,011.27. This is an increase of 2.5 per cent.

Kent Hospitality, the branch of the University that is in charge of accommodation, said the changes to the prices in Rutherford College were due to the College moving to a “Bed and Flex” system.

This system was introduced in September 2015 for students living in Eliot College, where students are provided with a daily £8 allowance to spend on food and drink via their KentOne card in eight venues across the campus during term-time.

Hospitality put this change down to campaigns for more catering/dining options for Eliot and Rutherford residents.

Previously, students living in Rutherford and Eliot Colleges were not provided with kitchen facilities and were only given an allowance for breakfast in Rutherford Dining Hall, or money off dinner if they didn’t choose the breakfast option.

Speaking about the increase in the price of accommodation on the Canterbury Campus, Kent Union Vice-President (Welfare), Rory Murray, said: “At a time when students are struggling with the cost of living and with the recent cuts to maintenance grants it’s extremely disappointing to see the University increase rent levels, despite representations from Kent Union against the proposed increases. Accommodation at Kent is already unaffordable for many and the increases from September will only force more students into financial difficulties.”

The average maintenance loan for a UK fee-paying student is currently £4,040 per year. This does not cover the average rent, which is £5,234.97 for the year, on a basis of a 39 week university year.

The average cost of accommodation at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus for the 2016/17 academic year is £5,510.75 for the year, meaning that Kent is above the national average for annual rent costs, and is also over £1,000 more than the average student maintenance loan.

Kent also has higher average rent costs than the South East average of £5,420.61 for the year. The South East is the second highest region in terms of rent costs in the UK, outside of London.

Details on parliament’s website show that the average maintenance loan for 2015/16 of £4,040 was a 3.7 per cent increase from the previous academic year. If there is the same increase for 2016/17, the average maintenance loan will be £4,189.48. This is still over £1,000 less than the average accommodation cost at Kent.

In spite of this, the University was praised in the 2015 National Union of Students (NUS) Accommodation Cost Survey, which said: “By contrast, the University of Kent, which is situated in a high cost area, has managed to keep over a quarter of its stock below the £120 [per week] level.

“The University has deliberately sought, as it has developed new accommodation, to maintain lower cost accommodation within its portfolio and, in difficult circumstances, it is achieving these objectives.”

Looking across the city, the accommodation at Canterbury Christ Church is also above the average maintenance loan. For accommodation at Petros Court, their newest facilities, students are charged £6,320 for the year, which counts as 40 weeks in this case. The cheapest accommodation for Christ Church students, according to prices supplied on their website, is Parham Road Student Village. Residents pay £4,400 for the year, which is considerably lower, but the village is located outside the city centre.

Looking at a similar university to Kent and a similar city to Canterbury, the University of York, which placed 17th in the 2016 league tables and sets similar entry requirements for students as Kent, charges £123.34 per week, or £4,933.50 for the year.

Although the University gave information about why the price had increased so sharply for students in Rutherford College, they failed to highlight changes made to other colleges to necessitate increases in price.

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