Students have expressed their concern at the planned closure of
of residence Clayponds, with Imperial College Union President
Scott Heath expressing his "disappointment" at an alleged lack of
communication between the College and the Union with regards to the
Clayponds, located in South Ealing, is a student housing estate
containing 136 houses and flats and providing accommodation for 325
postgraduate students. Like undergraduate halls of residence,
Clayponds has its own wardening team, and social and sporting
activities are regularly organised for its
The wardening team was made aware of the College's intention to
close Clayponds in December, leading to current and past residents
expressing their concern at such a decision. An email sent directly
to Rector Sir Keith O'Nions by subwarden Craig Court resulted in a
personal response confirming the aim to close Clayponds, while
outlining the reasoning behind the decision. Mr
Craig's email placed emphasis on the affordability of Clayponds,
claiming that new postgraduate accommodation such as Clapham's
Studios or Imperial West
appeals to "a completely different demographic" in terms of
accommodation costs. "If Clayponds is closed, replacing it
will be impossible," he continued. "Finding a self contained
site with 136 properties of flats and houses in zone 3 with good
transport links via the Piccadilly Line straight into college is
unrealistic. Converting those properties into student
accommodation, including common room facilities and offices for
hall supervisors would also be expensive. Clayponds provides
for some of your poorer postgraduate students the accommodation
they need, just as it has been doing for around 20 years."
Finding a self contained site with 136
properties of flats and houses in zone 3 with good transport links
via the Piccadilly Line straight into college is unrealistic.
Craig Court – Clayponds Subwarden
The Rector's response aimed to provide some background to
the College's decisions, beginning with a reassurance that "we care
very much that safe and affordable accommodation is provided for
students whilst they study at College." The response
details that a focus group was held in February 2011, "which
returned a clear message that students wanted the College to
provide accommodation in areas within 30 minutes travel time to the
South Kensington campus and close to public transport for increased
security, particularly in the evenings." "Postgraduate
students stressed that, unlike when they were undergraduates living
away from home for the first time, they wanted an independent
living experience but with opportunities to socialise as they wish.
The College developed its postgraduate accommodation strategy with
this feedback as a key focus." In addition, the Rector
raised concerns about the suitability of Clayponds in the long
term, citing an "over 50 minute travel time to South Kensington, in
an area with little to offer students in their leisure time."
"Through selling Clayponds the College will be able to raise
in the order of £25m-£30m. This will be reinvested in
the provision of bursaries to all Imperial postgraduates students
that choose to live in GradPad accommodation [Griffon Studios in
Clapham or Imperial West at Wood Lane]; the bursary will be in the
region of £25 per week for postgraduates in 2012-13. This
subsidy will enable Imperial’s students to live in better
quality accommodation, much closer to South Kensington, than
Clayponds currently offers." Past and present residents of
Clayponds have contacted Felix in response to these statements.
Lauren Clark was a resident at Clayponds for one year, until
September 2011, and believes that the loss of the accommodation
there would "greatly detract from the experience of future
postgraduate students". Writing that "the availability of
affordable student housing was instrumental in making my time at
Imperial enjoyable," reference is also made to the estate's social
side: "Clayponds Village also provided a great community atmosphere
and culture that can not be easily recreated." In response to the
longer commute and activities, she continues: "while the commute
time is something I did gripe about, I'd have to strenuously
disagree about the surrounding area having little to offer. Kew
Gardens and Richmond are a single bus ride away."
Séverine Maréchal, writing in an open letter, also
emphasises the community of the site, or "Clayponds identity"
– "the dynamism and enthusiasm of the wardens and
staff… fostered by numerous activities and a constant
on-duty presence." Also highlighting the affordability of the
location in comparison to Griffon Studios, she continues:
"Personally I would not have been able to join Imperial, would I
not have had this accommodation option". John Castle,
resident at Clayponds for the 2010-2011 academic year, recalls an
"amazing year", again highlighting the "superb community feel".
Rubbishing claims that the area offers little to do for leisure, Mr
Castle highlights the local eateries, pubs and opportunities for
sport in the nearby Gunnersbury Park. "The way that these
plans seem to have been kept quiet by the senior management has
really annoyed me. Clayponds is an Imperial institution
well-loved by its current and former residents, many of whom return
to visit. A rationale adequate for closing such a successful
part of the College needs to be quite spectacular, and yet it has
not been forthcoming." Union President Scott Heath has
actively stated his concern with the closure, claiming that the
"consultation [the Union] had [with College] was absolutely zero".
Expressing his "disappointment" with the lack of contact with
College, especially in light of the "direct impact" that such an
event would have on the student body, he continued: "the one-year
bursary scheme is a clear sign that College recognises that Grad
Pad is pricing out a large number of students. Unfortunately this
level of bursary is not enough to ‘price in’
students." "We currently have no fit for purpose
postgraduate accommodation if you want to replicate what Clayponds
offers. Maybe a few years down the line we will have postgraduate
accommodation that has the same community spirit, but until then
College must provide low-cost accommodation if they have any care
or consideration about making life affordable (comfortable)."
"This whole situation is reminiscent of last year's Life
Sciences restructure and a sign that the Union needs to have the
chance to consult Management Board papers." The College's
Management Board, which is chaired by the Rector, is delegated
authority to approve projects with a total value of less than
£5m. Hence, the selling of Clayponds, which could generate
over £25m, must also be approved by the College Council.
Imperial College Union, while not sitting on the Management Board,
do sit on College Council, who will meet on 10 February. Heath
indicated that he will “use the position in Council to voice
the opinion of the Student Body and apologise to all members that
neglect of Management Board to consult us means that such comments
must be aired there.”
Update [12:26 – 20/01/2012] – A statement from
Deputy President (Welfare) Nicolas Massie: "I have two primary
reservations about Griffon studios and the new accommodation at
Imperial West, particularly when contrasted with Clayponds:
one, the lack of provision of pastoral care and two, the price.
Postgraduate students are not immune to homesickness or ill-health.
They do not arrive with bands of friends knowing where to find the
local shops. They do not necessarily have the support networks,
certainly within the first few months, to help them through
difficult times. The lack pastoral care provision in the new halls
of residence would appear to assume this. These areas of difficulty
when combined with potential stress brought on by unusually high
costs could, to the pessimist, spell disaster.
"I appreciate that Griffon Studios, and the new halls at
Imperial West may well represent ‘good value for money’
but perhaps it is time to consider that students are students and
that perhaps they need something that is simply of lower value. I
applaud the efforts College is now putting into ascertaining
exactly what students need and want in terms of accommodation but I
think in the meantime it would be a great pity to close and sell
something that is working while opening something that is untested
and just might not."
Really terrible news if they chose to close Clayponds. I am currently a postgraduate and am paying for everything myself. I could not remotely consider either of the other postgrad accomodations due to their expense, and would expect that I probably wouldn't be entitled to any bursaries (due to self funding). On top of that why would you want to live in either halls when Clayponds has created a community. We have regular events and people you can go to with issues - things I've heard are lacking in other postgrad halls.
I have lived in Clayponds for several years. The loving and amazingly fun community is what I will always value and remember the most, a community that allowed me to feel welcome in London and build a new life here. I would have never been able to experience this in private accommodation, which would have been my only option if Griffon Studios and Imperial West were the only halls. 210 pounds a week (with the "subsidy" if Clayponds is sold!) is simply ridiculous for a PhD student with typical income rates of £1300 a month, let alone for self funded MSc students. My other option of course would have been to opt for another university, which would provide me affordable housing.
Does this university have ANY affordable accommodation? Post-graduates have to eat too you know. I can't see the funding boards offering any increases to postgraduate stipends any time soon.
How conveniently picking and choosing! The "consultation" the Rector's e-mail refers to, was one meeting with 15-20 volunteer postgrads, organised by the GSA in reaction to publicity about Griffon Studios. Asked on their desired accommodation, many talked about half an hour's commuting time, but, what the e-mail conveniently leaves out, no one at all was ready to pay more than 130 pounds a week (a reasonable Zone 2 rent in the private sector)! The director of the College Fund also explicitly stated that Griffon studios is aimed at a "niche market" and not all postgraduates. This one-hour meeting is all the "consultation" that has been had on the matter, simply to justify already made decisions.
Anyone who stayed in Clayponds for at least one term would agree that this decision is ridiculous. I have been staying in Clayponds in the last two years. As a partially funded overseas Ph.D. student, Clayponds is one of the limited places in London that I can afford to live in. Paying 210£ per week is totally impossible for me (which is more than twice I pay right now). My decision on accepting to study in Imperial would definitely be different if I was offered an accommodation for 210£ per week. I am sure that there are (and will be) many students sharing my thoughts on this.
I seems to me that this is being done to force PG's into the overpriced GradPads, combine this with the attack on the PG and Staff bar, the Holland Club, you have to wonder how much the College values it Post Grad Students.
If Clayponds didn't exist I would have had to live in the private sector, because there was no way in hell I was paying £235/week minimum to live in the overrated Griffon Studios. That's all this is going to do, force poor international students like me to move into the private sector and try and figure out accommodation before arriving to London from another country (and probably get scammed along the way).
This decision is simply farcical. For fear of repeating the many comments on the financial and pastoral consequences, might I suggest that the college is simply ignoring the human issue at hand. A college with the reputation of Imperial knows that regardless of cost it will fill most academic positions due to demand. By forcing high living costs onto postgraduate students it may severely limit the feedstock of the worlds bright and brilliant coming to the college. The college has built an outstanding reputation on research carried out by these post graduate students and ultimately only the college will suffer as a result.
Here is a theory:
I just thought I now understand why Imperial doesn't belong to NUS....
i feel sorry for those post grads that live at the clapham junction one - that's a rip
this is ridiculous..apart form the price being a major issue..the environment and the setup here is fantastic!!!
All good points being made in the comments here. A few points to pick up on:
"This whole situation is reminiscent of last year's Life Sciences restructure and a sign that the Union needs to have the chance to consult Management Board papers."
It is no doubt that the administration is bad but closing it is the worst.
I lived in Clayponds Village for a year (2009-2010). This place holds so many wonderful memories...the warm welcome, helpful wardens, the fun community and atmosphere, the get-togethers, day trips,...I don't think I would've enjoyed my stay in London as much if I were staying in any other hall. I disagree with the transport issue - although I studied on the Hammersmith Hospital campus, the commute to South Ken would take, at maximum, 40 minutes (on a really busy day). It's a shame to hear such sad news about a beautiful place, with warm, welcoming and fun-loving people being closed. Clayponds Village was not just any other 'hall', it felt like a separate colony, living independently in houses and getting together to have fun. I am glad to have had the opportunity to stay in such a wonderful place. I do hope they revise this decision and allow many other students to enjoy staying in Clayponds Village.
Just recently stayed with a friend who lives here and left wondering why more universities don't have the same affordable housing for postgraduates?! Postgrads deserve low cost accommodation (esp. those who don't have any other means of support other than their stipend) as their hard work underpins the university's reputation and attracts and generates income that drives research. Taking into the account the current reputation of Imperial, they should treat their workforce with a bit more respect and set an example for the postgrads they hope to attract in the future.
You might wish to look at the Council minutes of 10 July 2009
I cannot adequately express my disappointment to this news. Clayponds remains a vibrant and very viable community of which the college can be justly proud. I have seen numerous College residences close since the 1990s, some were dilapidated and some were too small to be viable. Clayponds is neither of these things and has benefited from considerable investment by the college over the last ten years. To see it sold without an established replacement seems very short sighted. Our post-graduate community has steadily grown by 6% per year and provision of suitable accommodation is an important asset to Imperial; especially in the Masters-level sector, where overseas students need the support of an established residence. I can only hope there is a part of of some grand plan of which I am unaware.
I wonder how many of the postgrads in this focus group were drawn from the South Kensington Campus, rather than the large departments in Hammersmith and St.Mary's hospitals which are far better served by accommodation in an area such as Ealing than Battersea. The only campus which Griffon Studios serves is South Kensington, for all others it is prohibitively remote, not to mention ludicrously expensive and asocial compared to alternatives in the private sector. The college seems quite content to forget the several thousand postgrad students who are not based at South Ken and never actually have any work-related reason to visit there.
I am currently a resident in Clayponds.
I was at the focus group meeting about accommodation and what the Rector is saying here is completely misrepresenting what the postgrads at the meeting were saying. The meeting was actually called because postgrads were outraged at the price of Griffon, and we were particularly outraged that this accommodation was advertised by the College as "affordable", which it absolutely isn't, given the level of PhD funding (and most MSc students are self-funded so they don't have more money available either). The main point we were trying to put across to the College at that meeting is that we need MORE affordable accommodation options for postgrads, NOT less. There were people from Clayponds at that meeting as well and they all expressed that they were pretty happy with what they were getting for their money.