New university students booking first year accommodation “worried about ghosts” as competition for places heats up – 14 August 2014
“IS MY room haunted?”, “Is the building currently on fire?” and “Where is the closest graveyard?” are the three strangest questions asked of Unite Students staff in the build up to this year’s ‘A’ Levels results.
Unite Students, the UK’s leading developer and manager of student accommodation, believes the competition for university homes during Clearing is likely to be strong.
Almost half a million ‘A’ Level students planning their first year at university are being advised to find somewhere to live soon.
Unite has recorded some of the less common questions, asked of its national contact centre.
- One female student destined for Nottingham wanted to be assured her room was not haunted. When asked to elaborate, she asked if the room “had ever been occupied by ghosts or spirits.”
- A male student going to Huddersfield, West Yorks., was looking at student accommodation using Google Earth and spotted something he mistakenly believed was smoke coming from the property. He rang the contact centre and asked staff: “Before I go and view, can you reassure me it is not on fire?”
- And another female student asked to know how close the nearest graveyard was. Unite Student staff were able to use mapping tools to reassure the student the closest graveyard was some distance away.
Unite Students managing director Richard Smith said:
“We do all we can to make sure our properties are a home for success for our students.
“These are some of the more entertaining examples of the huge volume of requests we get, but I’m very glad that in each case we were able to set the student’s mind at rest.
“There’s a lot to be said for getting your questions in early, as competition for places means rooms get taken up early.”
Competition for space
Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show university applications are up by four per cent on last year.
Last year 454,810 UK and EU students were accepted into British universities via UCAS.
Meanwhile, some 41 per cent of the students who deal directly with Unite for their accommodation are from non-EU countries, including well over 5,000 from China.
Unite’s purpose is to provide a home for students which supports their success at university, whether defined as academic achievement, personal growth or preparing for the world of work.
As part of this commitment, the business has introduced a string of innovations including:
• Free fortnightly cleaning in shared flats
• 20Mb Wi-Fi throughout its properties
• An extension of its ‘no place, no pay’ promise to include ‘no visa, no pay’ for overseas students.
The growth of accommodation within the UK for international students has led to many changes.
Unite now have a support and sales team which speaks 11 languages, cultural awareness training for its employees and an airport collection service.
Richard Smith added:
“The days of ‘it will do’ student digs of the type mocked in 80s comedy The Young Ones have long gone.
“This year we’ve seen a noticeable rise in early requests for features including en suite bathrooms, attractive views and the best locations.
“More applicants are asking us about the availability of study areas – which suggests students in 2014 are more focused on their studies.
“In broad terms I would say there was a general trend towards higher expectations, quality Wi-Fi being a ‘given,’ and a growing preference for privacy.”
In April 2014, Unite Students announced it will be reinvesting its profits over the next two years – £40 million – into a series of initiatives to provide a home for success which supports their academic careers.
These include Wayne Hemingway-designed interiors and instillation of LED lighting across the entire range of properties.