The results of a recent housing review established that just eight or nine college rooms would be available to third years next academic year, as opposed to the usual 25.
According to the College’s JCR Housing and Facilities Representative, Nick Howley, this shortage in accommodation has been caused by various factors, including a growing number of fourth years, an increased fresher intake and more rooms being allocated to visiting American students and Junior Fellows.
In an email circulated amongst JCR members planning a “Think tank on the housing crisis”, to be held this Friday, Howley outlined the enormity of the situation: “Remember: this is big. Bigger than fridges.”
In Sunday’s JCR meeting, he told members: “There aren’t enough rooms. The primary concern is making sure that people in our year who can live in get accommodated straight away, as well as third-years going into fourth-year.”
A subsequent review has since upped this estimation to thirteen rooms, but has done little to settle the situation, which, according to Howley, is still very much “up in the air”. The number of available rooms is also set to decrease by about ten or more the year after, effectively wiping out third-year accommodation.
Howley explained: “Naturally people who expected to have a room are upset. Quite suddenly a large number of different factors have come together to produce this sudden drop in available rooms, and only a couple of them might be mitigated; the rest are inevitable.
“In the past, the instability of decisions such as admissions figures and the appointment of Junior Fellows have never been an issue, but when combined with the squeeze from extra fourth years, the closure of a staircase due to dining hall refurbishments, and a number of rustications, these decisions suddenly operate on the margin, and are crucially not set until the new year, which is again something that can’t be avoided.”
Howley’s planned think tank will seek to produce a “plan of action for the term ahead” in an attempt to resolve the situation.
The meeting will also address the issue of the random ballot reversal system currently in place, which is now “basically defunct” given the lack of third-year rooms. A lot of students are apparently “keen on the idea of rating first-year rooms and using this as a basis” for the allocation.
One second-year student at New, who wished to remain anonymous, was more sceptical of the reasons for the lateness of the announcement. They said: “It’s shocking that College has left it till now to disclose this, as presumably they’ve known that this was going to be a problem for a few months.
“The only reason we can think of is to limit the students’ ability to do anything about it. The College heavily markets its ability to accommodate a decent proportion of students, so it’s disappointing they’ve not seen fit to carry through with what they wrote in the prospectus.”
Howley also recognised the inconvenient timing of the news, saying: “This of course comes after most people [from other colleges] have put themselves into house groups and decided on housing – so it’s no wonder that at this stage it’s a shock to have to find private accommodation for yourself.”
He continued: “If we can’t guarantee accommodation to everyone who wants it or at least offer the possibility of accommodation through the three years, I fear that we’ll start to fall behind competitively, and I think it is this debate – about what sort of accommodation system the College wants to offer – which will be more important than anything.”
Accommodation and Domestic Managers at New College were unavailable for comment.