My Eight Hour Accommodation Hell

University-of-york_heslington-hallUpon receiving your A Level results and discovering that your work over the last two years was enough to guarantee your place at university you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d done the hard part. The problem is, with the University of York’s accommodation application system, you’d be wrong.

Most other further education institutions allow students to apply for their accommodation prior to receiving their results, this means that they can enjoy a relaxed few days following the tense run up to Result’s Day safe in the knowledge that there’s a bed reserved for them in their chosen destination. At UoY, the exhausted undergraduates have to wait in anticipation to receive ‘randomly dispatched’ emails, awaiting their fate like tributes in a much less interesting, much more tedious set of Hunger Games.

Ridiculous as the system is, elated new students simply have to accept it as I did. I bided my time and was happy to sit around staring blankly at my never changing inbox until the final day of the enrolment and accommodation emails being sent out. But then the clock started ticking. Four O’Clock was approaching and my calm demeanour started to wane. I’d woken up at nine AM with cautious optimism that the email would be waiting for me but by the afternoon it still hadn’t arrived.

Eventually I cracked. After numerous searches of ‘York accommodation email’ on Twitter to see if there were any other poor souls in the same quickly sinking boat as me (there were more than enough) I decided to tweet the university and the accommodation services. Needless to say, as with any aspect of applying for accommodation this involved a long wait, this time for a reply. When the people running the twitter accounts eventually decided that perhaps helping a new student out might not be a terrible idea they echoed war time propaganda by, in a roundabout way, telling me to keep calm and carry on.

But all calm had escaped me by this point in the mid afternoon. There was one hour until the emails were due to stop and I hadn’t heard a whisper. Cue more correspondence with accommodation services on Twitter, cue useless links and vague information, cue a small breakdown and a furious dash to the house phone as I turned to the tried and trusted, more human approach to customer service- the phone lines. Hold music played and dialling tones rang out as the clock still ticked on and the only conversation I’d had so far was with an automated service that told me to ‘press one’.  Finally I heard the comforting sound of a human voice, the speaker of which listened to my problem and promptly transferred me to another line. More dialling tones and then, nothing. They’d hung up on me. They’d actually seen my call incoming and hung up.

After a livid outburst which very nearly cost my living room most of its ornaments I repeated the process.  It was well after four O’Clock when I was finally put through to the relevant people who informed me that the email had actually been sent regardless of whether I’d received it. They sent it again. I still didn’t receive it.

At this point, faced with a year of sleeping on York’s Shambles I became desperate and resorted to trawling through my college emails for any communication with the university with the blind hope of finding literally anything of any relevance. Suddenly, there it was. A link sent to me in an email revealing the details of an open day from October of last year that allowed me to upgrade my IT account, enrol at the university and, with the incredible ease of about five clicks, apply for accommodation.

After eight hours of my day spent hunched over a computer screen waiting for an email and help from accommodation services I’d managed to apply through an ancient email and personal perseverance. Although I can only view this as a success there is no excuse for a system that can cause so much stress for something that should be quite simple.

The first real taste of the University of York for me and many other students is a sour one. The accommodation arrangement is massively flawed and one technical difficulty can lead to an eight hour nightmare such as mine. This problem needs to be fixed quickly unless the University is prepared to deal with undergraduates that come into the institution frustrated and weary after having dealt with a hugely flawed system.


  1. Graduate
    19 August 2014 - 17:15 BST

    Maybe he shouldve checked that the IT account was ready to log in etc earlier, rather than waiting for the day of choosing accommodation?
    Everyone is in the same boat, I bet in 3 years you’ll look back and realise that unless you get put miles away from campus, whatever you get given doesn’t even matter. Everyone’s in the same boat.

  2. G
    20 August 2014 - 08:06 BST

    System actually seems better thought out than last year – York learning from something, perhaps.
    I fear ‘eight hour hell’ should read ‘incompetent student not given enough mollycoddling to figure out how to use emails.’ But then that’s not really a news story, is it?
    However, a very vision story, and well written as such. The author will fit in a treat next year..

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