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Halls fees: How does Birmingham compare?

As advertised on university accommodation websites.

AS applications open for 2010-11 places for University of Birmingham accommodation, the average cost of the options available to students stands at £130 per week – £113 when weighted against the number of rooms provided.

That is higher than student accommodation provided by Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Aston and UCL by as much as £26 (£1092 a year).

This average, over a 42-week lease, cannot be covered by the maximum possible student maintenance loan of £4950. Even in London, which is the only city where university loans can go over this value, the average weekly cost of accommodation is lower than Birmingham.

The cheapest accommodation provided by the University is Ashcroft Halls of Residence at £76.48 a week.

Yet the accommodation at the universities of Bristol, Aston and Manchester all provide cheaper options; with Bristol going as low as £58 per week, even though the average house price in Bristol is over £20k more than it is in Birmingham.

The University of Birmingham does have eleven choices for accommodation that fall under the £4950 ceiling.

Even here (with the exception of Sheffield and UCL) each of the other examples provided more choices under the price, with Bristol providing a total of 40.

However, choice is only one of the issues. The maintenance loan is supposed to cover not only accommodation but also other living expenses.

Even if students with a £4950 loan went to Ashcroft halls of residence in Pritchatts Park, they would have a mere £41.38 to cover all other expenses per week.

It is possible that this is an issue that could turn prospective students away from applying to Birmingham.

There is no doubt that the University does cater for the more affluent students, with flats in Shackleton available for undergraduates for as much as £9,920 for a 50 week lease.

The University has responded to Guild action in the past and has done much in recent years to improve the quality of accommodation.

Ed Sparkes, the incumbent Vice-President Housing and Community stated that: ‘It’s great that we have a University committed to providing good quality accommodation but that there is still a while to go before we truly have a decent range of accommodation types and prices in order to suit all student needs and budgets’

The University has taken some action by freezing the cheapest 15 per cent of prices for a further two years.

Yet Birmingham’s accommodation has the highest average costs, the most expensive ‘low-cost’ accommodation, and its cheapest accommodation is more expensive than five other universities of a similar standing.

Director of Hospitality and Accommodation Services, Stuart Richards, said: ‘In our discussions with the Guild regarding accommodation fees for 2010-11 we took due note of the view that we need to offer accommodation at a range of price points which enables those who might wish to come to Birmingham to be able to do so.’

He added: ‘We have reduced the price of accommodation at Ashcroft and frozen the price at Maple Bank – out two lowest price options and furthermore given an undertaking to freeze these two prices for two more years subject to inflation remaining broadly at today’s level.

We will continue to structure our fees to create a broad base to reflect the undergraduate profile.

We have invested heavily in creating high quality student accommodation and continue to invest significantly in maintaining that standard and we are proud of the experience which students living in our accommodation enjoy.’

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