A shortage of University accommodation means some new students will have to move into three- and four-person rooms in halls of residence, while freshers who live near St Andrews are having to stay at home.
Meanwhile, some undergraduate students are being placed in postgraduate residences.
In University Hall the senior study room has been turned into a bedroom, which will accommodate four students. But the senior student of University Hall, Taylor Carey, had not been informed about this reduction in study space. “I hadn’t heard anything about this,” he told The Saint.
Mr Carey said he was unable to make a definitive statement because he was unaware of the full situation, but said: “I’d be keen to stress that our halls of residence, in my understanding, are not simply economically efficient spaces for cramming students. They are supposed to function as communities, so it’s always a question of balance between the demands of space and money and the actual experience of the residents themselves.
“I think that’s part of the reason we have hall committees in the first place, and wardens. That (to my knowledge) neither of those groups was made aware of significant changes to communal spaces in University Hall would seem, in my opinion, to undermine that arrangement, and thus threaten the balance.”
A University spokesperson said: “The room has an HMO license and will comfortably accommodate four students. This is not unusual and has been done before. Last year a student stayed in that room for about four weeks, before alternative accommodation became available.”
Similarly, The Saint understands a common room in St Regulus Hall has been converted into a four-bed room.
Some existing bedrooms have had their capacity increased and will be home to three, rather than two, students. The University spokesperson said: “In previous years this has proven a successful solution with the students in those rooms becoming firm friends and staying together all year, not wanting to be split.”
But the students affected are not all so optimistic. Katriya Chua, who has been allocated a three-person room in University Hall, said: “My room was supposed to be a two-person room but they have tried to squeeze in an extra person. I am concerned about not having much of my own personal space.
“The University have compensated me by charging a slightly smaller fee, however, I would rather have a comfortable living space. I have been notified that the room is ‘a very large twin’ and that it can accommodate for three people. I hope this is true as I have no idea what the room will be like.”
Núria Adell Raventós has also been allocated to a three-person bedroom in University Hall. “I’m happy to share a room,” she said, “although I would say three people is quite a lot for one room (especially if it used to be double); it means less privacy and freedom. I just feel they should have told us before of this possibility, but in any case it always depends on the room mates, so I just hope I’m lucky and we get along well.”
The University was unable to provide a figure for the number of students who find themselves in this situation.
Although the University promises to provide accommodation for all entrant undergraduate students, it sometimes makes an exception for those who live nearby. Its accommodation guarantee states: “In years of exceptionally high demand, we may ask students who live within a reasonable commuting distance to live at home until a room becomes available.”
Danny Gordon is one student subject to this small print. He currently lives back and forth between St Andrews and Cleveland in the US. “I have mixed feelings”, he said. “While I understand that they [the University] prioritise students who move to St Andrews specifically to study, I do feel at the same time somewhat disappointed as I was led to believe that living in University accommodation was an integral part of the student experience which I will now miss out on.”
Fiona Powrie, from Tayport, is still waiting to hear whether she will be in University accommodation for Freshers’ Week. “To think that there’s a chance I will miss having the full Freshers’ experience is disappointing for sure, but there’s little to be done,” she said.
“The University has been working for months to ensure incoming students have somewhere to stay for the upcoming year; this year has been particularly hard on the accommodation services, and I’m sympathetic to the situation.
“With just over a week until students begin moving in, however, I wish that there could be a definitive answer. The uncertainty of the situation has left me frustrated, but I’m aware that it is being dealt with. I just wonder why the University does not appear to have had a plan in place for the high accommodation demand, especially with the closure of one of their residences.”
Concerns have previously been raised about a squeeze on accommodation. There has been a steady increase in the number of students accepted at St Andrews each year, from 1,395 in 2009-10 up to 1,540 in 2013-14. This gradual increase has placed strain on University accommodation.
In April the University took the unusual step of offering to release returning students from their accommodation contracts to free up space. At the time it said this was a result of “the unique circumstances of reduced capacity and strong demand anticipated from entrant students.”
In addition, Fife Park is undergoing redevelopment at a temporary cost of 162 beds.