Disgruntled incoming first-year students drubbed the housing process as ‘awful’ and ‘stressful’ in a series of damning social media posts as accommodation staff worked tirelessly to get each one into a college.
The process, which began on Monday from 8am, involved each student being sent a random email telling them when they could apply for accommodation.
The first batches were sent out for those who had put York as their ‘firm’ choice with the second set being sent out on Tuesday for those who had put the university as their ‘insurance’ choice on UCAS.
But many were left without the type of room that they wanted after they were snapped up very quickly.
One wrote on Twitter: “Seriously the York accommodation system is so so stressful -.- you get a random email between 8am and 4pm and stuff runs out fast.” (sic)
And another said: “So so gutted, got my email to apply for accommodation at York and all the self-catered accommodation on the Heslington West campus has gone.”
Louis McGillick, an incoming English undergraduate, said the system was like awaiting your “fate in a much less interesting, much more tedious set of Hunger Games”.
In a comment piece for York Vision, he wrote: “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.”
A spokesperson for the university said on Twitter that they were “working on it” and that there would be a “completely new system in place for next year”.
In a separate response to user @annie_122, who described the system as “awful”, they wrote: “We know it’s not the best process, we’ve been listening and are working hard to make it better in the future.”
The university guarantees students accommodation through Clearing and Adjustment as well as for those who choose York prior through their firm and insurance choices.
Those who get a place through Clearing or Adjustment have to accept a place promptly at York and apply by the deadline of 3pm on 22 August, its website says. For those who choose the university through firm or insurance on UCAS, they just have to apply by the same deadline.
A spokesperson for Accommodation Services said: “We have a wide range of room types and layouts available for undergraduate students, within 8 colleges. Some room types are more popular than others. We send out emails in random batches on our peak application days. We do this partly to manage the load on the system but also to give students a fairer chance of being able to select their preferred college and room type. If a college / room type is showing as available, they are.
“On 18 August, firm students who achieved their required A level grades were eligible to apply for accommodation. We sent out emails between 8am – 2.30pm. Insurance and clearing students were eligible to apply the following day nearly 2,000 students applied over these two days. Around 3500 beds in our accommodation are earmarked for first year undergraduates and most of these have been applied for with allocations and offers / contracts going out this week.”
They added: “We have responded promptly to all phone, email and social media inquiries from students and parents.”
But it’s not the first time the system has come under fire by incoming first-year students.
Just last year, university officials were forced to apologise after the system made them accept accommodation they didn’t want. First-year undergraduate Abi Clark told The Independent that staff told her to “grab a mug of vodka” as she “cried on the phone” because she couldn’t get a room.
And in 2012, students were left with extremely limited options after the number of catered rooms were significantly increased.
The Accommodation Services’ spokesperson added: “For 2015/16, we are changing to a new application system. Students will apply earlier in the year, when they have accepted a conditional course place at the University. They will give their preferences for accommodation, instead of selecting a college and room type, and will receive a room booking based on their preferences once they become unconditional.”
A university spokesman said: “We are introducing a new system in 2015 because the existing software is no longer supported by the company which supplied it. It will be based on a preferencing system and will use the same software already used by the Conference Office. Student reps are fully involved in the project group to prepare for it.”