Last weekend Stirling University’s housing officer Justine Pedussel spent her weekend with the Solidarity space and a team of students canvassing student accommodation, speaking to students about their quality of accommodation.
The canvassing took place over Saturday and Sunday. Teams tackled accommodations in small groups, knocking on doors and asking students questions in their survey. The results from the survey will be turned into statistics that the housing officer and VP communities can use in the future to work on improving student accommodation.
Purpose of the survey
“This weekend, the purpose of it is to compile a list of problems that either accommodation services have missed, are unaware of, or haven’t been taken care of for whatever reason. And then for that list to be given to accommodation services. So there’s is not the excuse of, well, we weren’t aware,” said Pedussel.
Pedussel and the team also wanted to find the most common issues that buildings and flats have including questions about windows, heating, and insects. Talking to students directly about these issues is important to Pedussel.
“Canvassing is one of the easiest ways to compile the list of issues, talking to students to know what kind of problems people are facing,” she said.
Despite being a small team they covered a lot of ground achieving most of the accommodation buildings on Saturday and then finishing it off Sunday.
When asked why she thinks students are willing to accept student accommodation with these issues Pedussel said:
“I think I think a lot of students are younger. You’re 17 or 18. You’re not sure what you’re supposed to accept, you go to university, you trust the university, to provide you with those life skills that you’re supposed to have.
“So if you go to accommodation, and the place that you’re living in is has a low standard, in contrast to what you’re willing to accept in four years time, that’s something you go in and you go, ‘Okay, well, if the university is giving me this, and that must mean that that’s an acceptable way to live’.”
Whilst there was a variety of issues recorded across the responses, with one response in particularly strange concern.
“We go into the kitchen. And there was the remnants of a wasp nest on the window. Which had been removed. Thankfully. But you could still see the trace of it,” said Pedussel.
Polwarth Hall student accommodation. Image credit: Stirling University
Pedussel is excited to move forward to the next steps with the survey and statistics. She is particularly interested to see if there is specifics on what buildings have the most issues.
“That’s going to be more of an internal usage for now. And then the actual list of problems, which is why we asked for, like the flat number or which room it is that has that problem. That’s going to be given to combination services as a list and we’re gonna say, these are the problems that you need to fix.”
The statistics have revealed that there were issues across all of the accommodations canvassed. Problems with the windows were the most prevalent across six of the accommodations.
Ally Court and John Forty’s had the most issues across windows, mould, heating and wasps and insects. Polwarth had a lot of health and safety issues in stairwells with doors that should be locked and boxes with wires inside uncovered.
Pedussel since had a meeting with management where she raised these issues. She was promised that each building will be looked at to ensure they are all fixed.
The Solidarity Space
The solidarity space has been a massive support in the fight for better student housing since they started in 2022. They told Brig:
“This is the third year we have spent surveying university accommodation and we have been pleased to see fewer issues than before but a lot of issues are still there. Fundamentally, it should be the University’s responsibility to seek students out and ask if their accommodation is good enough.
“A lot of students will compare their living standards with other accommodation that they view as worse to explain why they think ‘it’s okay’. We feel this is a really unfortunate situation. No one should feel that their accommodation is acceptable because others live in even lower quality housing. It is unacceptable to live in a flat with exposed wires, mould, and without hot water.
“There’s often a general sense from students that ‘this is only for a few months’.
“We believe that everyone should have good living standards, no one should be struggling to afford the rent to pay for inadequate housing, regardless of how long for.
“Students in student accommodation are often living on their own for the first time, and it is common for them to feel that they don’t have a good understanding of what is “fair” for what they pay, and we frequently see that many students are too anxious to ask for help.
“We need an education structure that puts its students wellbeing first, providing for these barriers, not exploiting them.”
After the canvassing, Justine Pedussel and Vice President of Communities, Zöe Crosher, held a housing week to help students learn more about fighting for better housing. This included information stalls, postcard craftivism and finishing with a housing fayre on Friday.
On the matter of housing, Crosher commented: “Housing is a key consideration for our members which is why, working alongside the Solidarity Space, we are keen to hear what feedback students have on their housing, both with the University and in the private rented market.
“Just last week, we hosted Housing Week to encourage feedback and share resources with students regarding their accommodation.
“I partook in some canvassing, and it was a great chance for students to air their views with us. Feedback like this allows us to continue to work constructively with the University and others moving forward.
“We would also encourage students with any issues or concerns to raise them with the University accommodation team directly and get in touch with the Students’ Union so that we can ensure that they are dealt with.
“The Students’ Union are currently looking to work with the University to improve the reporting system, in order to ensure that all such matters are dealt with swiftly.”
A University of Stirling spokesperson said: “The University works closely with Stirling Students’ Union, its Sabbatical Officers, and its Student Housing Officer to ensure our students can access a wide range of quality, affordable accommodation.
“As part of our close working relationship and the processes in place, Students’ Union representatives play a key role in decisions taken on accommodation matters.
“Should any student experience an issue with their accommodation, we encourage them to report it to us immediately – either by contacting their nearest staffed building’s reception desk in person or via email, or by using the QR codes displayed within the accommodation.
“All issues reported to us are reviewed, prioritised and rectified at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Featured image credit: Stirling University