This is an idea based on what I am seeing here in Uppsala and although, for an enormous number of reasons, recreating in Manchester what they have here is impossible, some things could be brought over.
The General Idea:
Creating cheap, good quality, housing owned and run by the student union. If the demand is high, the students. who ‘get involved’ the most as volunteers within our Student Union would be the ones with priority in receiving a room.
Involved in what way?
- Working a few hours a week in one of the Union outlets (Bars, Shops, Giggs, Club nights).
- Getting involved in RAG or Student Media.
- Holding a committee position within a society and being actively involved.
- Being an active course rep.
To establish the level of volunteer work one does for the Union there could be a special individual ‘point system’.
What Would be so Special about SU accommodation?
- Competitive Prices (with all bills included).
- Good quality, fully furnished, bedrooms.
- Good location.
- In a community of fellow students who most likely share similar values on the importance of building a good university experience and making a difference for other students.
- Different from ‘classic halls’ as priority would be given to students who have been involved in the Union over a certain amount of time. For this reason most likely people who would live there would be more chilled and concerned about their academic results then the average freshman hall.
How could this be done?
Because of the increase in university fees Manchester University has experienced a drop in applications resulting in an excess of rooms in halls available. The accommodation office has around 9000 rooms for rent spread out across the 3 campuses (city, Victoria and Fallowfield).
Allen Hall, my former hall of residence, was not used this academic years and almost certainly will remain shut for the next academic year too.
That hall or other ones unused by the university’s accommodation office could be run by our Union as it would be a shame for these buildings to get sold and knocked down.
My idea would be for the SU to run the unused halls from next academic year, make a considerable investment to renovate the kitchens, improve living areas, refurnish bedrooms and generally ‘freshen-up’ the buildings.
The work could be carried out during the next academic year and the hall could be fully functional by the start of the academic year 2014/2015.
With what money?
Partly with SU funds and partly with the help of student volunteers that during weekends could help the construction team in carrying out big part of the work. Beyond the advanced ‘DIY’ experience and the opportunity of making new friends the workers could have the benefit of a rent-free bedroom in the hall during the following academic year.