‘It’s not the Bristol university experience I was promised’ - UWE students sent to live in Newport

The freshers say they are often having to fork out as much as £20 a day on public transport

More than 125 students from Bristol UWE have had to find accommodation in Newport, more than an hour’s commute from their campus.

The freshers living at student accommodation in the Welsh city say they are often having to fork out as much as £20 a day on public transport, arriving late for lectures and missing out on socialising with friends in Bristol.

There are currently 127 UWE students living at the accommodation in Newport. Many of them only discovered they would have to live the other side of the Bristol Channel once they accepted their places at UWE.

Due to the increase in demand for on-campus living, UWE Bristol is building more accommodation on Frenchay Campus for an additional 2,250 students, with the first 900 rooms available from September 2023.

In the meantime, students like 18-year-old Jennifer Reina Sniezek from London are having to spend additional money and time commuting to and from Newport most days.

She said: “It’s quite shocking that I’m having to pay for trains every day rather than the university putting on coaches for us.

“They told us to get railcards but nobody has been reimbursed for their railcards yet and it was £70.

“The maximum spend for travel each week could be around £60 but it’s different each day depending when we travel.

UWE student Jennifer Reina Sniezek is commuting to Bristol from Newport each week

“We also have to wake up much earlier than people on the Frenchay campus. They get up about half an hour before their lectures but we have to get up about two hours before that to get to the railway station and then get the train.

“I don’t have any money and my mum’s a single mum in London with four kids so we’re not rich.

“I’m just hoping I have enough money left to go home at Christmas but I’m not sure at the moment. I don’t want to go into my overdraft but I may have to.

“A coach for the Newport students is the best option if they can do it, that would be great.”

And Jennifer says she’s also missing out on socialising with Bristol friends since starting at UWE in September.

“Let’s say it’s not the Bristol university experience I was promised. Newport’s fine and there’s a new club opening soon but I wanted to go to Bristol not Wales.

“If you want to go to a Bristol club you have to wait until 3am or 4am for the next train back.”

Fellow student Dami Areola, 19, is also living in Newport and commuting to UWE four days a week.

She says: “Due to the rail strikes, the university was kind enough to provide coaches for us but I don’t believe that will continue next week so we’ll be back to getting the train again next week.

“The journey from Newport to Filton Abbey Wood in itself isn’t too bad, it’s about an hour but you have to get to the station and then it’s another 15-minute walk from Filton Abbey Wood up to the university.

UWE student Dami Areola who currently lives in Newport and commutes to university in Bristol

“But it’s tiring four times a week when you have course work and assignments - it’s a big chunk of time out of your studying and relaxing.”

Dami says the cost of her commute varies each day depending what time she travels but it soon mounts up.

“If I’m travelling at peak times to get to early lectures, it’s £12 return a day, but if I’m going later in the morning it will cost me £8.50. And those prices are with a railcard so it’s still a lot of money for students.

“We had to buy the £70 railcards ourselves and then send proof of purchase to get the money back.

“The college said they would reimburse us but it’s three weeks now and they haven’t. They said they’re waiting for all the students to send them in before they process them which is frustrating.”

As any new student knows, Freshers’ Week should be a time of celebration and a chance to hang out with new friends in a new city but Dami says hers was disappointing.

“I just went out once. I got the train to Bristol and then a taxi to the club but I left early to get a bus to the railway station and the bus didn’t turn up.

“We were going to get a taxi, which would have cost £70, but fortunately we saw other people from Newport so got the Megabus back at 2am.

“Had we not seen those people, we would have had to wait for the first train to Newport the next morning.”

Dami has no complaints about the accommodation in Newport, it’s just the rising costs of commuting.

UWE students Dami Areola and Jennifer Reina Sniezek

“The accommodation is fine and we are treated well, it’s just purely the distance.

“I do drive but my car is back at home in Hampshire so if the cost of commuting by train continues, I think I’ll have to bring my car to Newport but not every student has that choice.

“But petrol’s expensive and it would be a 35-minute drive each way every day and it costs £120 for an annual parking permit. I’ve already paid £9,000 for the courses so it’s a constant drain on my funds.”

A spokesperson for UWE said: “Bristol has become an increasingly popular city to live in. This, combined with the also increasing demand for University places and the rise in the cost of living, has placed additional pressure on our accommodation and the rental market in the city.

“We recognise that living in a city such as Bristol is expensive, which is why we provide options for students who may wish to consider living within commutable distance instead, at a significantly cheaper rate.

“The Newport accommodation is within walking distance of a train station with good links to the city, and transport will be paid for to and from the train station alongside a three-year railcard.

“The accommodation is situated in a vibrant student area, and we have received positive feedback from students living there in the 2021-22 academic year.”

UWE also says reimbursements for railcards bought by students will be paid as soon as possible.

“We understand that a number of students have experienced difficulties with the reimbursement process - we will work with these students to ensure they are fully reimbursed.”