Kingston University’s students’ union has called for compensation for students who were prevented from occupying their chosen accommodation due to maintenance issues.
The students had booked rooms in 75 Penrhyn Road, one of the university’s halls of residence, expecting to occupy them from September onwards. However, due to unplanned maintenance work they were instead given rooms in the nearby Hilton DoubleTree hotel.
Then, at a meeting on October 20, less than two weeks before they were due to leave the hotel on October 31, the students were told that 75 Penrhyn Road was still unfit for occupation. Many were allocated rooms at different university sites, but these alternatives were unsuitable for some students with disabilities and other support needs.
First-year Journalism student Caterina Magnoni said she was “really shocked” by the announcement. “I cried a little. But it was more angry tears,” she said.
The situation negatively impacted Caterina’s mental health, which in turn affected her studies. She said: “I was not at the best of my abilities – because I was really, really stressed. I didn’t go to class because I really couldn’t concentrate on anything other than where I was going to live.”
Pharmaceutical Science MSc student James Nuanez said: “I’m constantly getting upset over things that I shouldn’t and I feel like it’s just because at the back of my mind, I have this whole situation there and it’s not something that can just go away until it’s done.”
Mohamed Sghaier, VP Welfare Officer at the Union of Kingston Students, highlighted the university’s responsibility to safeguard students’ wellbeing. He said: “Students don’t feel like that has happened, so that is something the university needs to take on board, listen and learn from it, and improve.”
The students’ union is calling for financial reimbursement on behalf of the students affected. Sghaier said students should also be granted mitigating circumstances for any academic work affected by the disruption, and extensions on any upcoming deadlines.
He further said that the university should assist students whose new accommodation was inadequate due to their additional support needs, by helping them to find suitable alternatives in the private sector.
A Kingston University Accommodation Officer said: “Although we have applied compensation for lack of kitchen facilities and laundry facilities during [the] hotel stay, there is no plan at current to apply any further compensation to the affected students.
“We are working closely with the Student Union to ensure all complaints are addressed and investigated accordingly and it may be that the University deems further compensation suitable as the result of this.”