Welfare

“Affordable” Accommodation

19 March 2018

The University of Melbourne’s newest accommodation plan for Royal Parade and Bouverie Street promises a lineup of some of the highest quality features and facilities, but at what cost will this come to students?

Currently, the University has 3188 beds available for students from private providers at either the Leicester Street facility (Student Village) or at campus colleges. By 2020, the Melbourne Student Accommodation Program aims to have an additional 6000 University associated places ready for students through several developments including an extension of University College and new facilities at Lincoln Square, Royal Parade and Bouverie Street.

The 303 Royal Parade facility located in close proximity to the Parkville campus will provide 285 single, twin and studio rooms for undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as indoor and outdoor communal areas. The Bouverie Street accommodation, which is also close to Parkville, will offer 596 beds. The University’s student accommodation website claims that they have a “commitment to affordable, safe and quality accommodation” and “accommodation offerings tailored to student needs”. However, just what kind of lifestyle do these lodgings require you to have in order to truly afford such a place?

Currently, the average cost per year at Student Village is somewhere between $15,000-$20,000, while fees for residential colleges range between around $20,000-$30,000 for those not offered scholarships—figures that will most likely reflect those at the new developments. Though financial aid is an option for some, many students are forced to rely heavily on Centrelink payments and/or support from their parents.

In 2013, Universities Australia surveyed approximately 12,000 full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students and found that 21 per cent of students had an “annual income of less than $10,000, and a further 40.3 per cent earned between $10,000 and $19,000.” The average income was $18,634 for undergraduate students, an amount that would leave students in University accomodation with only a few thousand to spare for daily needs after paying residential fees.

A former Resident Assistant, college resident and Student Village resident, said that, “While some private providers offer scholarships and the University offers financial assistance to somewhat subsidise the cost of living for economically disadvantaged students, the reality is that this funding is far from adequate to support the number of students that need to re-locate for University (just over 50 per cent of Australian undergraduate students).”

“Even the cheapest student accommodation, Unilodge, with no immaterial benefits is still significantly more expensive than the median price of a similar studio/one bedroom apartment in Melbourne CBD … Increasing enrolment figures combatted by decreasing affordability of living in Australia’s urban areas and an entirely unregulated industry … have provided a perfect cocktail for a select few private providers to oligopolies the market.”

However, whilst the price of such accommodation is steep for many students, the opportunities and experiences that await those involved often make up for this burden. Student Village offers students access to a swimming pool, gym, recreations rooms, music rooms and study lounges, not to mention a safe environment surrounded by fellow students. Residential colleges offer up to 21 meals per week, access to college tutorials and the intercollegiate academic program as well as a range of support and recreational programs.

Exchange student from Ireland, and former Student Village resident, Annie Walsh, said that whilst accommodation supplied by the University of Melbourne is “quite a bit more expensive than Dublin, the quality is very high. It’s definitely worth it as I met some really really good friends and it takes a lot of stress out of finding an apartment. It is also very convenient for university life.”

No news has been released as to what exactly the University’s newest accommodation facilities will include, but if history is any indication, it will most likely also provide students with similar opportunities.

While the addition of new student accommodation is certainly welcome, it appears that high prices will remain a significant hurdle for many students hoping to access the privileges of University lodging.


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