Roar writer Marino Unger-Verna on King’s Accommodations and the many flaws that have become apparent over the past school year – from overbooking to bad maintenance teams.
Thus far, the 2019/2020 academic year has not been the best one for King’s Accommodations. The year began with over-booked rooms, forcing students from buildings such as Wolfson House to relocate to alternative accommodation, where they were greeted by staff who often had no knowledge of their arrival. To make matters worse, students were offered different rates of compensation, until the Residences team eventually offered those affected £2000 for both their travel and trouble. Despite the eventual resolution, the occurrence left many students disillusioned, with one saying it felt like King’s were “buying their silence”.
In the recent Champion Hill fiasco, King’s corrected their previous oversight in offering compensation with the majority of students moved to the London Hilton Metropole near Edgware Station. While these students have been offered liberal compensation, as well as myriad amenities at their new place of residence, many were upset at the time, given that they were informed of the fire hazards discovered at Champion Hill during the winter exam season. Notable as well is the fact that the Champion Hill residence was opened to students in September 2014, meaning the hazards were discovered only around five years into the building’s operational lifetime as a student accommodation.
While Roar has not yet received the official figures regarding the Champion Hill – Hilton move, we have estimated the approximate minimum cost of the operation to be over 1.5 million pounds. While this is a clear sign that none of these mishaps occurred as a result of malicious intent, it is also an incredibly large sum, which could no doubt have been spent on more productive ventures, had this issue not arisen. Perhaps it is time for King’s to take a broader look at all of their accommodations, to optimise them one by one and prevent issues rather than simply treating them when they crop up.
A university’s most important asset is its students. Other aspects are important, of course: funding, skilled professors, and facilities to name but a few. But the students are the reason for any university’s existence and the way in which they ensure their status, both academically and in world rankings. A student’s performance is dependent on factors outside of the university, however, including where they live. As of right now, students based at King’s Accommodations can not be sure of having a stable place to live at the end of the day.
From extremely inefficient maintenance teams to overbooked rooms, to being uprooted just before exams begin, living in accommodation has proven an extremely stressful experience for many this year.
Perhaps now would be the time for the King’s Residences team to take a closer look at each accommodation. What works well in each residence and what does not? What could be improved and which strategies could be rolled out in each building to ensure the highest functionality possible in their operations? Does the college itself need to take more direct action in each residence’s upkeep – especially in the case of accommodations run in tandem with third parties such as Unite Students?
King’s College London is a world-class university – its student housing should reflect that.