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December 29, 2008

Broadgate Park Nottingham: Exploiting Student Accommodation

Broadgate Park Nottingham: Exploiting Student Accommodation

Warning to all students intending to take up accommodation at what they think is under the control of the University of Nottingham!!!

If you are a student, teacher, lecturer or parent who read this blog please pass on this warning about the growth of student exploitation through the growing property managment services company UPP. This organisation is growing in power in the UK and Kinoeye's wife has just been ripped off for about £1,000 whilst a student at the University of Nottingham.


Regular visitors to Kinoeye are aware that this is an academic blog which amongst its primary target audience seeks to inform  film and media students from the sixth form upwards as well as trying to appeal to all those interested in European films in general. As such it is not for profit and seeks to develop free exchange of information and ideas which are grounded on principles of more liberal / humanistic ideas of education with an emphasis on quality, cheapness and accessibility.

This entry is slightly different to the usual ones being based upon a current personal experience which also contains a generic warning for potential undergraduates who are likely to enter into a vicious contract with a company called UPP (University Partnerships Programme) . This  personal anecdote argues that UPP puts its profits above the welfare of the students. In the case of Broadgate Park the University of Nottingham must also bear some responsibility for a truly atrocious state of affairs. Given the increasing dependence of the British University sector upon overseas students and the rich financial pickings they offer I also hope that readers globally will pass on the relevant information.

Kinoeye Has Cancer

Some regular visitors will have noticed that Kinoeye has gone quiet lately. This is because I have oesophagal cancer. I have been off work for nearly three months, have been in hospital twice and am on chemo which is quite debilitating. Currently I'm able to write this as I have a small window as the chemo has given me such nausea that I've come off it temporarily.

It was the onset of cancer which has caused a family problem at Broadgate Park University of Notttingham. Whilst I work in the South my wife, a mature student, was in her 3rd year of an architecture degree. It was impossible to complete this course by commuting because the course is too hands on. As a result we decided to live apart during the terms and my wife took a place in Broadgate Park which as far as we knew was run by the University itself not an outside enterprise "in partnership" with the University of Nottingham.

My wife duly paid her initial fees, about £1,700, taken from her student loan (pretty much all of it) and spent a month in residence. In the the meantime I was getting iller and cancer was diagnosed. At this stage there was little option for my wife but to defer her course. She came back home and is now a full-time carer for me for which I'm eternally grateful otherwise I would be in a total mess.

Suffice it to say this has messed up our plans entirely and of course living with cancer is living with uncertainty. It is clearly very important to us to regain as much of this fee as possible. It was only ever borrowed and I soon face losing my income as sick benefits run out. In the old days when I was an undergraduate I have no doubts that there would have been sympathy expressed by the institution and that a satisfactory refund would have been worked out however Broadgate Park has been singularly unhelpful and unsympathetic to my wife. And on Saturday they finally agreed to pay back the initial deposit and car parling fees which were extras. My wife was only there for 5 weeks yet they wish to make her comply to a  contract signed until the end of the semester which is the middle of January!!!!

Broadgate Park /UPP & the Myth of "Special Circumstances"

Naturally my wife wanted a refund on her accommodation but they have beeen unforthcoming. The contract tries to ensure that it is the student responsibility to get another occupier if somebody leaves. This was clearly impossible to organise as I was in desperate need of care and my wife needed to organise getting her gear back get the house organised and car for me as well as deal with the emotional and psychological blow of cancer in the family alongside giving up her course which has taken two years of huge commitment.

There is some claim to special circumstances and there was a "tutor" Stephen Greedy who was meant to be some kind of liaison officer with this private company. Greedy was pretty unsympathetic and didn't follow up the case properly as promised. Nobody has bothered to explain what might constitute "spcial circumstances". Under normal circumstances we would have been on top but I was then hospitalised so something had to go. The UPP management at Broadgate Park have completely refused to look at the issue of special circumstances and to provide a proper student service.As the guy is some sort of electrical engineer it seems as though the University management haven't put a lot of care and effort into choosing an appropriate person for the role!

Despite being notified of leaving the hall of residence after 5 full weeks UPP have effectively charged my wife up until the middle of January and are sitting safe behind their legal contract. This is clearly entirely unjust and shows just how exposed to the vagaries of the property market students have become. It is clear from the attitude of UPP that the notion of "special circumstances" is simply a token get out clause. University accomodation has fallen fowl of big business and sadly some univrsity managments are happy to wash their hands of the responsibilities of student care.

A quick look at the UPP web-site reveals the unfurling of a rapacious property company which gives the usual blurb about growth etc. Please note it is not concentrating on providing best student quality and / or services. The message which needs to be spread is caveat emptor or buyer beware!

I hope that you feel it important to spread this mssage. In the meantime I will be contacting my MP as the situation is clearly highly exploitative. I will do my best to update you on any developments but no promises. If anybody else coming across bad UPP experiences write to the press and their MPs this will help many in the future. Please leave links in the comments box.

Cheers to all of you. Thanks for reading Kinoeye and happy 2009.

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