An Increasing Demand for Cheap and Quality Food at University

Image Credit: David Liu

As full-time university students, we spend most of our time at university, Monday to Friday, eight to five. Being a student like you and me is not easy. We face formidable challenges with respect to the food in university – especially on its price, quality, variety and so forth.

The Pop-up village was built last year to replace Union Court. Since the establishment of the Pop-up, it has experienced much controversies in particular on the food sector. Google reviews have given the Pop-up village a rather low average rating of 3.6 stars with most of the negative comments centered on food. Most complaints highlight that the food is too pricey, with few options, and of fairly low quality. This issue becomes more logical with a more thorough and careful consideration of the matrix of reasons that have contributed to this problem.

The chief culprit, and biggest contributor to the problem, is the lack of competition. We have to acknowledge that the Pop-up Village is a closed market where new businesses cannot get in and old businesses do not have the incentives to get out. In other words, the Pop-up Village can be considered oligopolistic and specifically designed for students. In this case, Pop-up eateries prefer not to compete with one another because, by doing so, they have a holistic control over the market price. Therefore, in this ‘closed economy’, the direct beneficiaries are the eateries but not us students.

While some may argue that we have the right to choose not eating at the Pop-up, and it is true, in practice the result shows otherwise. Apart from ANU, the area that also serves food is the Canberra Centre. However, to walk between the Canberra Centre and ANU will take around 15 minutes. As a full-time, rational student, we try to make most of our time studying or attending lectures. Consequently, to save both time and hassle, most of us might well eat at university by accepting the incredibly high market price and with very low variety to choose from.

In sum, the food sector at university faces a lack of competition, resulting in high prices and low quality. We have seen an increasing demand for a better, cheaper, and more variety of food. Although some actions have been taken by students to lower the price, such as the uni food options, the payoff is not yet promising. To best tackle this issue, we need to stand together and bring back the competition to the market.