By James Poole
Stockton students living in a new block of flats in Middlesbrough claim that they are being denied “basic consumer rights.”
The students, who live in Rede House and study courses at Durham’s Stockton campus, were told they would have “superfast 300MB Wifi” by the accommodation company Fortis Student Living, but arrived at the development to find no working router to connect to.
In a letter of complaint sent to Palatinate, students expressed serious concerns about their academic progress as they are unable to download essential course information and assessment documents from DUO.
Durham University claims that issues with the building’s Wifi have now been “resolved” but students have since described the speed and reliability of the wifi as “terrible.”
Faulty or missing furniture, water leaks, and windows that do not open have also wreaked havoc for students living in the new build.
One student, Victoria Perfaihova, told Palatinate:
“The Wifi situation is horrible, it only works between 2am and 6am so I have to work through the night to get my work done. I’m really angry about it.”
Bhavya Bakhda, a 1st year Accounting and Finance student, added:
“The Wifi router is two doors down from my room but I’m unable to access the internet – it’s just a joke.
“I feel betrayed by Fortis Student Living for advertising something that they are not providing. They are breaching basic consumer rights.
“When I arrived on moving day I had to wait six hours to get into my room.”
“There was no paintwork done and no carpets. Just this week my door handle’s fallen off and my fire extinguisher broke yesterday, posing a serious health and safety risk.
“The building’s basically falling apart and not fit to live in.
“What’s insulting is that as soon as we spill something or get a mark on the sofa we get an e-mail telling us off, yet they’re unable to fulfil the basic responsibility of providing us with liveable accommodation.”
Another student, Adam Ng, told Palatinate:
“Superfast broadband was advertised to us by Fortis Student Living but we’re simply not getting it.
“I study Pharmacy so need to watch video demonstrations to prepare for lectures and assessments but I’m not able to do this at the moment. It’s just not practical.
“When I arrived at Rede House my room was incomplete to say the least.
“There were builders everywhere, I had no desk and others didn’t have a bed, carpets or finished paintwork.
“Some people have had to move from room to room whilst builders carry out work.
“The University should be doing more to help, we need a voice with more authority to explain our problems.”
Scott Thompson, also a first year Pharmacy student, said:
“We’re paying a lot for this accommodation so we expect a good service but we’re simply not getting that at the moment.
“Durham says it’s a collegiate university but if it carries on allowing private contractors to provide accommodation, it’s going to be anything but.
“More accommodation needs to be built by the University within colleges.”
In response to the student outcry, Professor John Ashworth, Principal of Stephenson College, said:
“Rede House is a new purpose-built student accommodation block, offering en-suite rooms to a high specification.
“Initially scheduled for completion later in the year, Stephenson College staff and members of the campus departments were very pleased to be able to move students in to a newly-revised schedule right at the start of term so creating a community of students there.
“Naturally there have been snagging issues, such as a burst heating pipe which was resolved the next day and we were pleased that Fortis were able to move the very small number of affected students away from the burst area.
“The Wifi issues have now been resolved and have not affected Wifi access on campus or in the College’s IT suite, which are well-used by Rede House students.
“We believe that all issues that were brought to our attention are now resolved.
“If our students would like us to increase our College accommodation further it would be a conversation that we would be delighted to have.”
Photograph: James Poole