Oxford University RAAC

Oxford College asks students to sleep on mattresses in shared rooms due to RAAC in halls

Not really the Oxford dark-academia dream you signed up for is it?

St Catherine’s College at The University of Oxford has asked second-year students to volunteer to sleep on mattresses on the floor in shared rooms due to dangerous reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in the accommodation buildings.

RAAC, a type of dangerous crumbling concrete that has shut hundreds of buildings across the UK, has been found in 152 bedrooms in the college. These rooms, on the top of staircases one to 16 and the college’s main residential block, are now closed for renovation.

In an email to students seen by The Tab, students were told the extra bed provided in each room will involve “a mattress on the floor” which will “allow the mattress to be moved during the day to provide more space in the room”. Extra desks will not be added as it “has been determined that it would not be practical to put another desk in there.”

The college has emphasised that room-sharing will only be asked for “if it becomes necessary”.

Students who share a room will pay half price rent, working out at £13.50 per day, for the time they are sharing a room. Those who volunteer for this arrangement will also be given an extra seven days of standard accommodation in their allocated room at half price of the normal rate as a “gesture of goodwill”.

In an email to students, Catz JCR Vice President Kelsey Moriarty said: “The room sharing proposal has been a particular source of discussion among second years. College would like to emphasise that it is voluntary – you are under no obligation to share rooms – though if students do share rooms it will clearly ease the pressure on finding off-site accommodation.”

Email to students

“Room sharing will be a short-term arrangement, and students will be returned to single rooms as they become available.”

The college aimed to complete the building work before term time, but this has not been achieved. The email added: “The intention is to finish the rooms as quickly as possible though given the unprecedented nature of the situation works will over-tun into the term.”

This offer has been made to second-year students only and rooms in the college have been given to freshers as a priority to “facilitate their induction” into the university. Third and fourth year students will also be prioritised to prevent disruption to final year assessments.

Catz second years who do not get allocated a room in the college or accept the offer of a shared room will be housed in a different college or hotel. “Around 30-40 students are likely to be accommodated at various other colleges and College-owned buildings. Colleges that have offered accommodation include Pembroke, Lincoln, and Wadham,” the email said.

Around 10-20 students will also be housed in hotels on a temporary basis. The JCR Vice-President said: “I understand this is not news people want to hear – it’s frustrating and undesirable and I wish to express out commitment to communicating this to the College. I have been informed that College have been looking at hotels with strong transport links to Central Oxford and we are exploring reimbursement of reasonable travel costs. As rooms in College become available, people in hotels will naturally take priority.”

Although it is unknown how long this situation will be ongoing, the college expects that “by Hilary [spring term] everyone will be back in their planned rooms.” As the rooms with RAAC are gradually renovated, the college expects that second years will gradually move out through this upcoming term.

Students who have accessibility needs will be given a room in the college and any student requiring a en-suite for medical or religious reasons will be given one.

Other areas in the college will also be restricted due to RAAC concerns. These include the college junior common room and senior common room and the library. Temporary marquees will be put up as a replacement for these areas.

If you are a Catz student affected by this situation, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Featured image before edits via Kenneth Yarham / Creative Commons Licence.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Many students at Oxford will no longer be able to receive parcels to their colleges

‘Exhausted and useless’: The marking boycott has now delayed some students’ loans

RAAC: The first instances of dangerous concrete have been identified at these UK universities