The ANU’s Undergraduate Accommodation Guarantee will be extended to both ACT residents and new postgraduates as of 2014, following a review conducted by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Marnie Hughes-Warrington.

The decision was announced during an interview with Vice-Chancellor Ian Young and Hughes-Warrington, who reasoned that, “A lot of students love living on campus because they get access to support and community activities that really help them to transition to university studies. It is cohort building and something that the ANU’s very proud of.”

Currently, postgraduates and ACT residents are able to apply for accommodation but are not given priority. However, by extending the guarantee, the Deputy VC is hoping to “address that inequity towards ACT students [since] a lot of them want to be part of the community. We felt that they’ve been excluded from that unnecessarily and we want to make it more available to more people.”

This announcement follows the introduction of the Tuckwell Scholarship, which offers new undergraduate students $20,000 per annum for five years of full-time study. The scholarship is conditional on recipients living in an ANU Hall or Residential College for the duration of the scholarship. As explained by the Vice-Chancellor, Ian Young, “There are always some conditions around a scholarship. In this case the donor felt that this was something that he and his wife both valued and thought was important to try and build.”

Although this condition would have previously prevented local Canberra residents from receiving the scholarship, the Vice-Chancellor declared that “We wouldn’t disadvantage a Canberra student by excluding them from it. We thought [extending the accommodation guarantee] was a reasonable compromise which was consistent with the broad views of the university.”

However, there are concerns regarding the ANU’s capacity to provide new and willing students with guaranteed lodging arrangements. Since 2006, student enrolments have increased by 28%. In 2010 alone, there were 8,898 student enrolments from the local ACT/QBN region and 5,682 new domestic graduate enrolments into the ANU – all of who would have been candidates for on-campus residences under the revised ANU accommodation guarantee.

At this point in time, however, the university has no concrete figures on the number of local ACT residents or postgraduates expected to apply for the accommodation guarantee. As explained by Ian Young, “It’s going to be largely driven by, firstly, demand. And secondly, just how much accommodation we can easily build. I’d like to grow the number of students who live on campus, but, to what number, we don’t know.”

The first report of the accommodation review initiated by Hughes-Warrington will be presented to the deans of all the ANU’s residential halls and colleges in three weeks time. This will include the Chancellery’s proposed model to accommodate for the impending influx in new on-campus residents but, in the meantime, the university’s primary concern is addressing the exclusion of ACT students from the guarantee.

Woroni understands that the blueprint for Student Accommodation 5 (SA5) has already been conceived to relieve the strain on the university’s facilities, although construction of this next addition to the Student Exchange could only feasibly be completed by the beginning of 2015.

The President of the ANU Student Association, Aleks Sladojevic, is very pleased with the ANU’s decision to revise this policy, stating that, “Extending the ANU’s first year accommodation guarantee will provide a long, overdue opportunity for local students to enjoy the university’s residential experience. The Association views the decision as largely positive.”

However, like many other students, the ANUSA President also holds reservations regarding the university’s capacity to provide sufficient space for the new students. “It is important the university ensures that the new demand doesn’t further drive up already expensive costs of housing, and that existing students can continue to live at the ANU’s residences.”

The effects on Griffin Hall and the new virtual wing of Fenner Hall will remain to be seen. The first of its kind in Australia, Griffin Hall was founded in 2010 to provide local ACT students with a similar collegial community experience to the on-campus residential halls. Despite local students now being offered the opportunity to apply to live on-campus rather than join Griffin Hall, Hughes-Warrington maintains that the Griffin community will remain strong. “I don’t foresee any difficulties with Griffin in the future. Everything says that Griffin is incredibly popular. It’s fantastic and students enjoy the opportunity to connect with one another.”

When asked about his concerns for the future of Griffin Hall, President Oscar Morgain agreed with the Deputy VC’s sentiments, stating that, “Members of Griffin Hall want a multi-faceted social life. The majority of members enjoy the fact that they can have a diverse life within university, but also an independent one outside of it.  I am not too concerned at all, as Griffin Hall’s current member base is built up of students who want this diverse experience. Very few join just for the ‘college environment’.”