Durham-owned accommodation oversubscribed

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A FOI submitted by Palatinate shows that only 50% of returners who applied to live in university accommodation for the 2023/2024 academic year were offered a room. Students’ chances of securing accommodation depended heavily on their college. Only 24% of St Aidans and 30% of Josephine Butler applicants were offered accommodation. Collingwood students were most likely to be offered accommodation with 75% of applicants receiving an offer.

Self-catered college accommodation at Durham with a shared bathroom costs £164 per week; however, students assigned to catered colleges do not have this option. If they want to live in university-owned accommodation they must pay £234.77 a week. Only 7 of Durham’s 17 colleges offer self-catered accommodation.

There were fewer applications for more expensive catered accommodation. 57% of those who applied for rooms in solely-catered colleges were successful in being offered a room, while this was only true for 39% of applicants from solely self-catered colleges.

When asked about these figures, a spokesperson for Durham University said: “Colleges’ differing make-up of accommodation means they can offer different numbers of returner rooms.  

“There are proportionately more returner rooms available at self-catered colleges than at catered colleges, and this year Josephine Butler offered the highest proportion of returner rooms of any college at 22% (120 rooms in total).”

Despite more rooms Josephine Butler students had the second lowest chance of securing college accommodation, with only 30% being offered a room.

The University also told Palatinate that: “Demand for returner rooms also differs across colleges, and was relatively low at Collingwood College this year, for example, meaning they could offer accommodation to 75% of those who expressed an interest.”

Durham University’s aim to house 50-55% of students in college accommodation, laid out in their 2017 plan, has been dropped to 40-45% in the 10 year’s plan refresh.

Students were told whether they had received college accommodation in February 2023; however, the vast majority of accommodation in Durham’s private rental market for the next academic year was released in Autumn 2022. Queues outside letting agents, with some students camping overnight, attracted national attention. 

Last February, Durham told 970 students that they were unsuccessful in their applications. According to Sturents, as of 19th February 2023, there were only 75 properties still available in Durham for the 2023/24 academic year, with 73 of these properties being £169 per person per week or more on 52 week contracts.

Dana Al Tajer, a first year student from St. Mary’s, told Palatinate last year, that it was “shameful that they [the University] made us wait until February to find out whether we have a place or not. By then most of the houses were already gone, or extortionately expensive.” 

In response to this article, a Durham University spokesperson told Palatinate: “We know that our students value Durham’s collegiate system. College membership is for the whole duration of students’ time at Durham, and returning livers-in are a valued part of their college communities. 

“This year we have over 1,000 returning students living in colleges, which is more than the past three years. We expect to offer around 1,100 returner rooms for 2024/2025. 

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