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 residents.
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
"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
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.