Sussex University’s head of sport, Karen Creffield, has told The Badger that she would “love to be able to provide” free access to sports facilities to all students.
Creffield, who leads Sussexsport which comprises of the two sports centres on campus, is in favour of providing more free sports to students, though believes that opening up facilities to as many as 14,000 students could be impossible to co-ordinate.
Some students are campaigning for free campus sports access for all students in response to the worrying trend of mental-health problems suffered by university students in the UK.
Exercise is widely believed to help anxiety, stress and depression, releasing endorphins that improve a person’s mental health.
Creffield explained: “Free facilities for all is something that we would love to be able to provide, yet we have to be realistic about where money for this and maintaining good-quality facilities could be found, whilst recognising the need however to provide more low-cost, flexible opportunities for students to take part in sport.”
Sussexsport currently receives University funding for sport, which subsidises rates on facilities for students and staff.
All income generated is reinvested into maintaining facilities and providing the programmes that they run.
Lyndsay Burtonshaw, the Students’ Union’s Activities Officer, has called for the university to invest more in facilities, and believes students “should have access to free sport”.
“Sport really should be more of a priority for the university. The Students’ Union has lobbied the university to prioritise and fund sport more, as this year’s expansion in student numbers was without corresponding facilities investment, and it has become apparent that our current facilities are absolutely at capacity,” Burtonshaw told The Badger.
“Sussex students should have access to free sport, but this would require a significant increase in university investment in this area.”
A University spokesperson told this newspaper that Active US, the project which offers sport activities at low cost throughout the autumn and spring semesters, has been “targeted at getting the inactive more active” and has resulted in 12,548 additional visits to sport facilities in a year.
“We found… that First Generation Scholars were doing much less than other Sussex students.”
“As a result of this the University provided additional funding to support our Sport England grant to try and address this balance. While this trend hasn’t reversed the participation gap, it has narrowed,” the spokesperson said.
Glen Houlihan and Paul Millar