A former student from the University of Bristol has refused to participate as a judge in the Student Accommodation Awards – sending the nominations back for all being overpriced.
Stephen Le Fanu, who is now a student living officer at the university’s student union, was asked to judge a list of accommodation put forward by magazine Property Week.
But he and nine fellow judges from across the country sent the list back along with an open letter saying: “None of the entrants could demonstrate that they are meeting the urgent need of students to live in accommodation that will not force them into poverty”.
In their open letter, the judges pointed out that many of the rooms from the nominated accommodation providers are priced over £300 a week – far above what could be covered by maintenance grants.
I was part of a panel of students asked to judge student accommodation providers this week.
Read our open letter about why we refused. https://t.co/od3LWJy3zg
— Stephen Le Fanu (@Stephenlefanu) October 25, 2016
The letter accuses one accommodation provider of breaking the law by not listing its fees on its website. Another charges £400.
It also claims one provider discriminates against migrants, and poor and estranged students by charging hundreds of pounds to act as a guarantor.
The letter concludes: “Unless all students have access to safe, affordable accommodation at every institution and the means to pay for it, there is no cause for celebration, nor the ability for us to award a for-profit sector failing so many of our peers.”
Bristol24/7 has learnt that one of the student accommodation companies nominated in the category was Student Cribs, a Bristol-born firm which now has 180 properties across the country.
It has three properties in Bristol with double rooms priced between £540 and £600 a month. The company, which has been “reinventing university living since the early noughties”, says all its “stylish” properties come with a flat screen TV and an American-style fridge freezer. Student Cribs declined the opportunity to comment on the awards.
The prize was supposed to be handed out at a £3,000-per-table dinner at the London Marriot Hotel in December.
A spokesman for the Student Accommodation Awards said it had decided to scrap the Student Experience category.
He said: “We completely respect the decision of the judging panel not to make an award in this category. Developers and operators of student accommodation strive to produce the very best environment for students but our student judges have sent a clear message that the industry needs to do better.
“In light of this we have taken the decision to remove this category for this our inaugural event and review it for 2017.”
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