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Nowhere to stay for 42 students

PUBLISHED: 17:58 15 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:58 15 September 2010

More than 40 university students have been told they have no accommodation just two weeks before the start of term.

The second and third year students had been due to stay in campus accommodation at the University of East Anglia, but were only told last Friday that they will now have to find alternative housing.

The university has offered each of the 42 students £750 to help them find private sector accommodation, meaning it will have to fork out more than £31,500 because of the blunder.

One of the students now frantically trying to find somewhere to live is Nikki Sanham, a second year occupational therapy student from Sheringham.

The former Notre Dame student, who spent all of her secondary schooling commuting between Sheringham and Norwich, wanted to be near the campus because of her job in the Union Food Outlet and to give her some independence.

She said: “I found out at 5 o’clock on Friday and there wasn’t really much I could do about it other than worry over the weekend.

“I’m now trying to sort it out but it’s been very stressful and a lot of hassle to have to deal with.”

The 20-year-old is now struggling to find accommodation, especially as she is on holiday in Cornwall, and her father Clive Sanham said he was very upset with the way the situation had been handled by UEA.

He said: “This sort of thing shouldn’t happen in this day and age in a large organisation.

“Nikki had signed a legally binding contract for a room at the university which she couldn’t get out of.

“If they were aware they had a problem they should have made us aware before now.

“It’s as though they said: ‘we have a problem, now it’s your problem’.”

Mr Sanham said that while the Students’ Union has more than 150 beds listed in its accommodation service, many of these are in large shared houses which will mean Nikki sharing with strangers.

Today the university released a statement saying: “The University of East Anglia has experienced a year of increased applications and unprecedented demand on our university accommodation. As a result, we have taken the decision to prioritise new students who have no previous experience of living and studying in Norwich.

“This means that, unfortunately, we are no longer able to offer a room to a small number of returning second year students, as we had previously hoped.

“We are offering to help these students find rooms in the private sector as well as offering financial support. We fully expect to be able to ensure that every student will be able to find local private sector accommodation, and in order to help, we have put additional resources into the Students’ Union private sector accommodation service.

“We appreciate the co-operation of our students during this time and deeply regret the inconvenience caused.”

Tom Dolton, communications officer for the UEA Students’ Union, said: “We are taking the students interests at heart and are working with the university to find these people somewhere else.

“At the same time we are askng the university why this has happened. The people in this position have been effectively left homeless and are pretty upset and we need to ask for some answers.”

Do you have a story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk.

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