Returning students from the University of St Andrews are far less likely to receive an offer for standard self-catered accommodation than any other kind of hall.
The data, revealed through a freedom of information (FOI) request, details how the demand for the cheapest form of accommodation is failing to be matched.
Of the 136 people who applied for Gannochy’s standard self-catered option for the academic year 2019/20, only 31 got an offer. For Whitehorn only 42 got an offer out of a staggering 409 applications. Counter offers from the University can be at least £1400 more expensive in accommodation fees.
By contrast, the third lowest accommodation type for successful applications is Agnes Blackadder Hall’s ensuite self-catered option. Of the 126 people who applied only 102 got an offer, roughly 81 per cent. This is in stark contrast to Gannochy’s 22.8 percent or Whitehorn’s 10.3 per cent. At £6,909, it is also significantly more expensive than the former, which is £4,571 or even the latter which costs £5,566 for the academic year.
Daniel Marshall, who made the FOI request, was one of the 367 who did not get an offer from Whitehorn and instead received an alternative from the University which was £1400 more expensive.
The FOI also details returners’ applications and offers for University accommodation in the academic years 2018/19 and 2017/18. They show a persistent demand for the cheapest option.
In 2018/19, Albany park was closed, leaving the newly opened Whitehorn as the only option for standard self-catered accommodation. In that year of the 162 applicants only 32 got an offer, or 19.8 per cent. As with this year’s applications, this kind of housing was by far the most competitive. The next lowest success rate in applications was the newly opened ensuite self-catered Powell hall at 52.7 per cent.
The data shows that in the last year the now closed Albany Park was the only option to returners looking for standard self-catered accommodation. In that year it had a much higher success rate compared to the same accommodation types in later academic years. 86.6 per cent of applicants got an offer, whereas Gannochy’s standard catered option for the year 2017/18 had only 73.8 per cent. However, it is worth bearing in mind Albany Park’s uniqueness as a hall in St Andrews.
When assessing the percentage of halls by returning students compared to new entrants, in 2017/18 Albany Park had a significantly higher percentage than the other non-standard self-catered halls. At 61.5 per cent returners, it was a clear first ahead of second-placed Fife Park’s ensuite self-catered option at 48 per cent.
Looking back at 2018/19 and 2017/18, it would appear the astonishing figures from this year’s applicants are part of a wider trend of students eager for cheaper accommodation. The figures for Whitehorn this year could be even worse than the current 10.3 per cent acceptance rate.
The Saint reported this semester that in response to the closure of Albany Park, Gannochy would become self-catered. At the time concerns were raised about the lack of communication given between Residential and Business Services (RBS) and the wardennial team as well as the hall committee. Senior student of St Salvator’s Hall expressed to The Saint her frustration, saying “with RBS, you don’t learn anything unless it’s through gossip”. Fears have also been raised about how Gannochy’s kitchens will cope with students cooking there all year round.
Dan Marshall pointed out that there could have been even fewer successful applicants to Whitehorn if Gannochy did not now offer standard self-catered.
A University spokesperson said in response, “Entrant students are guaranteed accommodation and therefore there must be provision in all types of accommodation for them.
“Our total bed spaces for under-graduate students for 2019/2020 is 3, 383.
“We have offers accepted from returning students to date (2nd April 2019) of 1,232, with 12 places still on offer.
“This is 36% of our total available accommodation that has been offered to returning students.
“The original FOI was requested and returned by us on 7th March 2019. At that stage, returning students who were offered accommodation was 1,418 as a first round.
“These offers were sent out on the 25th February 2019, with a 10 day accept or decline period. This ended on the 7th March 2019. There were subsequent offers sent out as students declined their offers.
“Returners who were not allocated their first preference due to room availability (returning students are given single rooms and in standard catered accommodation there is limited availability due to their configuration, with exception of AMH) were emailed and offered 5 other options.
“In addition, 30 places in standard self-catered accommodation at Fife Park were offered to returning students at a cost of £4,993, due to refurbishment in summer 2020, meaning the block would not be available fora 50-week postgraduate contract. We have offered every returning student who replied to the ‘options’ email an offer.
“In 2018/2019 we sent all offers out at the first round, although a large number were given an alternative to their preference with no consultation and this resulted in a larger number of declined offers.
“This year, to try to increase the number of offers accepted we decided to ask those students not offered their first preference what they would like as an alternative before offering. As some students did not respond to this email this change resulted in fewer returning students being offered accommodation.
“However, those returning students who replied and were offered their alternative preference were more likely to accept, resulting in an increase of accepted offers by returning students for 2019-20.
“Although the number of returning students who were offered accommodation in 2018/2019 was higher than 2019/2020, the numbers who declined or let their offer expire was higher, therefore the actual number of returning students that accepted their offers in 2019/2020 is higher than in 2018/2019.”