Table of Contents
Findings and Discussion
2. Interview Reports
Methods of Social Enquiry – Financing University Residences
Student life is a very social time and especially living on campus is a good way to meet a lot of people. Unfortunately, being social also means to spend a lot of money on social activities. Meeting friends for a drink or a meal, going clubbing, or going to the cinema are only the most common activities students like to do and should do in order to balance their studies with their social life. However, finances can become an issue, especially for international students coming from countries outside of the EU and the EEA, who have to pay international tuition fees. These fees are more than twice as much as the home fees that UK and EU/EEA students have to pay. Then there is accommodation and other living expenses which are often higher than in the international students` home countries. For several reasons it might be easier for these international students, to opt for university accommodation on campus. It can be easily booked from overseas without having mixed feelings about not having seen the place or having to deal with difficult landlords and complicated UK tenancy regulations. International students are eligible for university accommodation and they are even guaranteed a space. Furthermore, they will easily get into touch with other international students in university accommodation and they will have all university facilities readily available. However, university accommodation might in some cases be more expensive than other accommodation types. Most of all, living in the UK is very pricy since the Sterling is a strong currency and hence international students get less value for their money due to the exchange rate. For all the above reasons, this paper will look at the financial issues concerning students in university accommodation. Mainly it will explore the students` evaluation of the rent they are paying for their rooms.
First of all, the paper will examine how fair the rent for university accommodation is regarded by international and home/EU students. The classification into international and home/EU students is mainly chosen for the reason that their different status is already determined by the university on an economic basis in form of tuition fees. EU students including students from EEA countries (e.g. Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein) pay home tuition fees like UK (here: home) students. Moreover, international or all non-EU/EEA students are not eligible for student loans from the UK government. Admittedly, EU students have a limited eligibility. Secondly, the reasons for differences or similarities in the evaluation of rent prices by international and home/EU students is researched through the investigation of the actual rent paid and the type of funding that pays for this rent. Underlying assumptions are that there is a crucial difference between international and home/EU students that matters for their evaluation of their rent paid and furthermore that the type of funding plays a role in this evaluation. The findings are expected to reflect a significantly different evaluation of rent prices between international and home/EU students, with international students being more likely to evaluate their rent as unfair. Moreover, the actual amount of rent international students are paying is expected to be about the same of that what home and EU students are paying. The main reason for international students evaluating their rents as unfair is suspected to be grounded in the different type of funding, international students having to rely more on private sources of funding rather than on government loans. The high tuition fees furthermore contribute to their feeling that money is tight and everything in the UK is much more expensive than in their home country.
Findings and Discussion
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Expectedly, the amount of home and EU students living in university residences exceeds by far (66.9%) the amount of their international counterparts (33.1%). Nevertheless, supplying one third of the total student population in university halls is quite a big achievement for international students. This data however makes sense when we recall that international students are always eligible for university accommodation, while UK and EU students are only eligible at undergraduate level or in the case of EU students also as exchange students. 98.8% of the home and EU students living in university residences are undergraduates, while only 69.8% of international students are undergraduate students. It might have been better for a deeper data analysis to break down the home/ EU student group into separate groups, since the living costs in EU countries are generally lower than in the UK and EU students might also be more insecure about prices in the UK due to the conversion of the EU into Sterling.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
When asked if they think that the rent they are paying was fair, the slight majority of students (36.9%) replies with yes, closely followed by students (33.1.%) who are not sure, then closely followed by students (30%) who say that they believe the rent to be unfair. This data suggests that the answers to this question are very closely linked with neither of them clearly dominating and only a slight majority of students thinking that the rent is fair. The picture however looks differently when the student population is split up, investigating international and home/EU students separately. With 40.2% of home/EU students replying that their rent is fair, they are clearly evaluating the rent more positively than international students of whom only 30.2% think that their rent is fair. While almost as many home/EU students (31%) as international students (27.9%) think that their rent is not fair, there is a strong difference in the amount of home/EU and international students being not sure whether their rent was fair or not. Only 28.7% of home and EU students were not sure about the fairness of their rent, while 41.9% of international students expressed the same uncertainty.
What is striking from the interviews is that a lot of students did not know the exact rent they were paying, usually because their parents were paying it for them. While home and international students being unsure about their exact rent usually were also unsure about how to evaluate it (Appendix, case nr. 18, 23 & 43), it also happened that two international students evaluated their rent as unfair, despite not knowing the exact amount their parents or guardians were paying (Appendix, case nr. 51 & 53). Hence, the high percentage of international students` uncertainty when evaluating the fairness of their rent could be due to the fact that for many of them rent is being paid by their parents or guardians. Furthermore, this insecurity could also be grounded in their confusion about the UK currency and pricing of goods and services as well as ignorance about UK standards for types of rooms and their appropriate rents. For example a 26-year-old postgraduate international student living in Kett House was unsure whether his rent was correctly priced, since he was not aware of property costs in the UK (Appendix, case nr. 17). Moreover, the term ´fair` in itself is quite an ambiguous one, since it does not specify the criteria that are used to evaluate this fairness. Is ´fair` meant in terms of evaluating the room’s facilities with the rent or comparing it to UK standards and hence with other UK universities or comparing it with rents of equivalent rooms in the international students` home country. Hence, the term ´fair` is quite broad and can be understood very differently depending on what associations the student makes. This problem arises due to the limited questionnaire which constraints the analyst, since she did not design the questionnaire but had to rely on the available data provided.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
In order to look more in detail at the connotations that students associate with the term ‘fair’, data concerning the students’ satisfaction with their room and its facilities will be analysed. Asked about satisfaction with their room in general, no significant differences between the answers from home/EU and international students could be found. International students are even slightly more satisfied (74.4%) than home and EU students (72.4%). No international student is extremely unsatisfied with her room, while 1.1% of home and EU students admit to be extremely unsatisfied with their rooms. When asked more detailed questions about the size and the furniture of their rooms, international students tended to be less satisfied. Only 69.8% of international students said that they are satisfied with the size of their room, while 74.7% of home and EU students say the same about their rooms. Therefore, 23.3% of international students admit that they are unsatisfied with the size of their room, compared to only 10.3% of home and EU students expressing their dissatisfaction. Findings look similar when asked if the rooms were furnished to their satisfaction. Only 72.1% of international students agreed with that statement, while 74.7% of home and EU students expressed their satisfaction. 20.9% of international students said that their room is not furnished to their satisfaction, while only 12.6% of home and EU students felt that way about their rooms. These findings suggest that despite the small differences in satisfaction with the size and facilities of their rooms, international and home/EU students are overall satisfied with their rooms. Following from these findings it must be looked at other reasons influencing international students significantly lower satisfaction with their rent. Therefore, it will firstly be looked at the actual rent that students are paying, before considering their type of funding.
Having found that comparably less international than home/EU students evaluate their rents as fair, it will be explored if this different evaluation is justified by comparing the actual rents the students are paying. The average rent students are paying in university residences is 80.65 pounds per week, as is determined by the mean value. Most of the students` (51.6%) rent however exceeds this average and they pay 87 pounds. Only 22.6% of students pay 75 pounds per week. When comparing the rents of international students with the ones that home and EU students pay, it was found that slightly less international students (52.6%) pay a rent between 80 and 105 pounds per week, while 66.3% of home and EU students pay more than the average rent of 80 pounds per week. Hence, in general the average rent that international students pay is slightly lower (78.18 pounds) than what home and EU students pay on average (81.75 pounds). What is striking from the interviews is that even international students who were paying less than this average rent were evaluating their rent as unfair. For example two international students, who were paying with 58 and 56 pounds per week considerably less than the average rent, were considering their rent as incorrectly priced. What they had in common was that they paid for their rent themselves (Appendix, case nr. 21 & 47).