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The Big Debate: housing on campus

After ‘The Guardian’ suggested that Sussex’s accommodation is tantamount to a miniature class sytem, we asked two students their views.

Does Sussex offer an adequate range of housing?

YES – Anna Sudnitcyna

Universityof Sussex Estates & Facilities Management: photograph by Gabriel Webber

Sussex housing: enough, too little or too much?

By this time, first year students will already have unpacked their stuff and met new friends on campus, but can you imagine how, just a few months ago, they were making decisions about their accommodation for a whole year at university? I am sure that it was hard, but because of the range Sussex offers, it was definitely possible to make a right decision: I would say that each student can find exactly what he or she is looking for. It would depend on what exactly they need and what concerns them more: price, facilities, social life.

First of all, I think that price is one of the most important criteria in choosing housing at university (particularly for students whose parents cannot offer them financial support). It is obvious in this area there are many (very) different options. For example, East Slope is the best way for saving money. It costs £80 per week, and if even this is still too much, Sussex can offer an even cheaper rate of £50 per week – but only if you have a shared room with someone else. Though this might not sound pleasant, second year students who lived in shared rooms last year say that it is very stimulating experience when you have to share kitchen and bathroom facilities between more than 6 people. It helps teach you to communicate with different people in different situations in the future life.

Of course, for those who think that price is symbol of comfort, there are many quite expensive kinds of accommodation. A lot of my friends live in the new accommodation, which was finished just this summer and where you can still smell the paint: that is, Northfield. Each week in these palatial 6-person flats, with their en suite rooms and big kitchen, away from centre of campus, will cost, on average, £131. Also for the same price, there is Swanborough. It is in the centre, so conveniently close to the Co-op and other buildings on the campus (exactly why I chose to live here).

The second point is social life: this is a concern that students must balance against price. I am sure that everyone will agree that student time is the most exiting period in our lives, so I want to remember this forever. This is all leads to the question: where is the best place for meeting good friends and having crazy parties? Or, if that doesn’t sound appealing: where is the best place for meeting good friends but avoiding crazy parties?

Each type of accommodation has own atmosphere which makes it special. For example, for cooking delicious dinners with friends better suits Lewes Court, because this is a quiet place for spending time talking with each other. Or if you prefer to spend time in alcohol-fuelled parties, then East Slope is perfect for you: this is the place where students have fun 24 hours without rest! If, for instance, you like nice walk before bed, Stanmer Court is really good for that – the only accommodation with a garden! Also there is something to say for taking the opportunity to live off campus, if you would prefer to dive straight into Brighton life.

To sum up, Sussex can offer different kinds of housing for absolutely different needs, social, practical and financial. Although it is important for them to give students a choice about how much rent they pay, it is even more important that the different styles accommodation are welcoming to students of all personalities and backgrounds, so that everyone can feel included from their first year onwards.

NO – Letitia Egan
A recent, controversial article in The Guardian claiming that Sussex University’s halls constituted a microcosm of the ‘real world’ class system has this week sparked much debate. The article, written by a student at Sussex, suggests that the more expensive halls such as Swanborough are luxurious and brimming with “yuppies”, whilst cheaper accommodation like East Slope, despite being more sociable, are apparently ridden with mould and other unpleasantries. So, the question remains, is this an accurate description of the housing options at Sussex? My answer would be that yes, for the most part, it is. As a second-year looking back on making my accommodation choices, I can remember the distinct feeling of anxiety that the process gave me.

I admit, ashamedly, that I am one of those people that couldn’t bear the thought of sharing a toilet, so despite warnings of boring, reclusive students living in halls that had private bathrooms, I couldn’t help but think “Please God, just let me have an en-suite.” After all, I wasn’t planning on making any friends in the toilet, was I? But it has to be said that the rumours are partially true. As an ex-Northfield resident, I can confirm first hand that the pricier halls are definitely less sociable than others such as Park Village or the Park Houses, whose residents I soon came to envy, damning my toilet for rendering me to a year of relatively few flat parties. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time in Northfield and made some wonderful friends, but certainly it is not the place to be if partying is your priority. One stereotype I will vehemently refute though, is that halls such as Swanborough, Stanmer Court or Northfield are full of “rich kids that don’t know how to have fun” (this inverse snobbery is something to be wary of). It’s not that the people in these halls are any less sociable or outgoing, but the nature of security in the halls (private flats instead of shared corridors, endless security doors etc.) means that sociability becomes that little bit harder.

The cheaper halls then: East Slope, Park Village and the Park Houses are the “cheap and cheerful” alternative, although it is important to beware of champagne socialists who think that living in East Slope is some sort of political statement. Arguably, at £81pw for East Slope and £101pw for Park Village, no accommodation on the Sussex campus is cheap. Perhaps, put simply, these accommodations are not “value for money,” if the stories of mushrooms in showers and horrendous toilets are true (though I often feel they are exaggerated..), then these prices simply aren’t justifiable. Those living in Park Village are not even provided with a kitchen table, a basic furnishing that, for £89pw it really isn’t satisfactory to lack. In direct contrast with the Fort Knox-style security of Northfield and Stanmer Court, the more affordable residences have almost no security measures, which could be of concern.

Socially though, those living in the cheaper residences are certainly at a huge advantage; with more communal living space comes, rather obviously, a greater sense of community. A York House ex-resident told me that he had “good flatmates and a big room but a tiny kitchen” shared between 12 people. Really then, if sharing a shower doesn’t make you squeamish, and a bit of food theft is by the by in the name of a good time, these residences are perfect.

We come now to the “middle ground” of housing: Brighthelm and Lewes Court. Legend has it that these residences are the most difficult the come by, nabbed by the gap-year and international students. And really, it’s not hard to see why. Brighthelm with its cute, family-home feel, and Lewes Court, with elements of luxury without the extortionate price tag. Although upon touring Sussex accommodation on the open day, I was told by a Swanborough resident that “Lewes Court is the most boring hall on campus.” Certainly, despite having (apart from the newer Phase 2 blocks) communal areas and shared bathrooms similar to East Slope, Park Village and the Park Houses, neither Brighthelm or Lewes Court ever seemed to offer the same level of social life.

In reality, all of the residences have their faults. ‘Luxury’ brings isolation; sociability means sacrifices on living standards; and the middle-ground brings a relative lack of character. A solution then would be to have one, standardised type of accommodation across the board, with similar, if not the same pricing, at the lower end of the spectrum. This seems the only feasible way to avoid the mini “class-system” that has arisen.

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One Comment

  1. There are benefits to all the different kinds of housing. On opposite ends of the spectrum sit East Slope – the party haven and Northfield – the miniature “palaces”.
    Now many would argue of Northfields resources and brand new furnishings, however the front doors are locked by fob and each flat within each block are locked by flat key. This in turn creates very anti-social environments, the only people you can meet are your flatmates who are 5 others.
    If you venture to have “gatherings” (you know what they can turn into), your “ensuite” flat, you’ll soon find that your personal abode now has to become available for the entire soirée – possessions at risk depending on if there are “new” people and as the evening rolls on and you become more inebriated, you could find yourself on the wrong end of pranks, un-volunteered “show and tell” or theft.
    People from all kinds of backgrounds go in any of the types of houses across the housing spectrum – it all depends on how much you are willing spend.
    In any case whilst applying for housing you can only choose housing “preferences” and are not guaranteed your first choice.
    Of course there is banter between houses about the quality of the accommodation but then there is rivalry between blocks and flats/blocks in the same district. The suggested “class” separation is myth, we’re all friends here at sussex.

    The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter where you live – if your flatmates are anti-social, untrustworthy, untidy or won’t respect the shared common room or responsibilities – then you won’t enjoy the accommodation you’re living in. Several students have already transferred out of East Slope, Northfield and all those houses in between, it’s not the accommodation, it’s the people you live with that can make you feel like a god.

    Reply

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