Is Life Too Easy on Campus?

Shouldn’t things be a little harder than this?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on the changing nature of student accommodation in the US.

It’s a wee bit like Broadgate Park

Residents at a new rental community in Orlando, Fla., lounge around a resort-style pool in private cabanas. They practice their golf swings at the putting green and meditate in a Zen garden. Videogamers sip complimentary coffee while playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” on a multiscreen television wall. Now, they’re facing final exams.

Welcome to University House, a $65 million private college dormitory that just opened near the University of Central Florida. Built by Inland American Communities Group, University House is one of the latest upscale communities sprouting up in college towns—including East Lansing, Mich., Tempe, Ariz., College Station, Texas, and others. Developers say that colleges provide a steady stream of new customers every year, and that students—and their parents—are willing to pay for luxury amenities.

This luxurious development in the US looks extreme but in the UK there have been many developments of high specification student accommodation in university towns and cities across the country. Many will have fond or not so fond recollections (or imaginings) of student life which is a bit more like this:

An end to the traditional student experience?

This is real student life

This example of Opal student accommodation in Leeds is not untypical:

This is actually in Leeds

This is actually in Leeds

This state of the art student residence has all en suite accommodation, with a choice of standard, deluxe or studio rooms. Standard and deluxe rooms are in cluster flats of 3,4 or 5 so living with your friends is not a problem!

In fact each student room comes with a pledge – apart from your low cost gym membership – there are no hidden charges. So you know when you come to stay at Opal 1 you can budget with confidence.

On site there is a splendid leisure centre with Jacuzzi, steam room and swimming pool, with up to the minute equipment available in the gym area. There is also a launderette and common room with Sky projection so you can watch your favourite show – or football match!!

Close to the city centre and the Universities, Opal 1 student accommodation is an obvious choice for students wishing to enjoy the nightlife Leeds has to offer.

And when you come back you will rest comfortably knowing that there is extensive CCTV coverage and 24/7 security on site for your protection

This kind of accommodation is seen as a good bet for property investors too, as the Independent reports:

Developers such as Vita Student have been quick to fill the gap for luxury student accommodation. The company is in the second phase of a £27m project at Tinlings in Liverpool – home to three leading universities. Vita is converting an existing building into 120 units, all fully managed, comprising self-contained studios and a smaller number of two-, three- and four-bedroom suites. Prices start from £60,450 with an assured annual return of 9 per cent for the first two years.

Similarly in Leeds, The Edge, an IconInc development, offers “hotel-standard” studio and one-bedroom apartments costing from £78,500, with facilities including a library, den, gym and concierge service and the same 9 per cent yield for two years to reel investors in.

So, perhaps not all students will enjoy putting greens or outdoor pools but there is certainly a better standard of accommodation available than the traditional Young Ones style shared student property. The key issue for many students though will be affordability – this kind of residence doesn’t always come cheap.

Does this make life just too easy for students then? Or offer too many distractions from academic study? Perhaps there is a possibility of students enjoying these home comforts too much. But surely it’s not unreasonable for students to hope for a decent standard of accommodation. And after all, the romantic rose-tinted view of parents of their time in grotty student bedsits is really just misplaced nostalgia – there’s really no reason why their children should have to put up with poor housing as a result.

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Preparing for university: “we call this a washing machine”

Some new students need ‘life skills’ it seems

According to the Times “pampered pupils” are receiving lessons in life skills to enable them to cope at university:

Increasing numbers of privileged students are arriving at university unable to use a washing machine, cook a simple meal or look after themselves, according to head teachers and academics. Teenagers have become so used to someone else picking up after them at home or in boarding school that they lack the basic skills needed to survive when they start their degree. One boarding school is so concerned that pupils will not be able to cope at university that it is sending sixth-formers to live in self-contained cabins.

Unlike boarders at other schools, sixth-formers at Abbotsholme in Staffordshire, where fees are £25,000 a year, do their own washing, ironing, cleaning and cooking. Steve Fairclough, the headmaster, said it helped to prepare them for the realities of university. “Independent schools, if they are not careful, can institutionalise kids and give them a silver spoon so they expect things to be done for them,” he said. “These cabins give them a bit of independence.”

This sounds like a major problem and one which has yet to be adequately addressed by many student services centres. It is time something was done.