Wednesday, October 16, 2013

End of an Era for All Women University College

This week I had the pleasure of dining at St Catherine’s College in Perth. This is a small college just across the road from University of Western Australia (UWA). The college is expanding its facilities with several new wings and invited the local community to see the work and as a "thank you" for putting up with the building works. We looked at a mock-up of the new rooms, had drinks in the courtyard and then dinner in the hall.

This was an informal event without academic gowns (which is good as I did not bring mine), a minimum of speeches and without the use of "high table". Being one of a handful of males (the college has some male "visitors") surrounded by hundred of young women was a little intimidating, but pleasent.

Next year the college will be opening up to more male students in the new accommodation. The change is being made in stages, I suspect so that the new male students can be socialized to the college life.

New Accommodation

The new accommodation consists of one person studio apartments, each with a bathroom and cooking facilities. The rooms have been cleverly designed to fit everything in a small space. Designs and sizes will vary.

The display room has the cooking facilities in the passageway to the left as you enter, with the bathroom on the right. Having the kitchen next to the bathroom has drawbacks, but makes the plumbing easier to install and also keeps dirty pots and pans out of sight of the main living area. Smaller rooms will have double beds and larger ones queen size. The St Catchs rooms seem to be slightly wider than those of other accommodation I have seen, making them seem spacious in comparison.

There are large fridges in each room. When I asked about using a small fridge I was told that residents from the country like to have plenty of the food they are used to on hand. It seem that St Cath's primarily caters to rural WA students. There was also some mention of minimum accommodation standards required by some government scheme.

There are also common rooms in the new buildings to get the students out of their rooms and socializing. However, unlike the new UniLodge at University of Canberra, there are no multi-person apartments (UoC has five bedroom apartments with shared kitchen and bathroom). Also unlike shipping container apartments at ANU Ursula Hall there are no apartments for couples.

It should be kept in mind that a university college provides more than accommodation and St Caths has tutorials and other activities for and by students.

Small Cheaper Student Accommodation Needed

The new St Caths and other new facilities at Australian universities provide an impressive level of accommodation but  at a cost. Not all students can afford their own fully equipped apartment.  I suggest that smaller, lower cost facilities need to also be provided, at about half the floor area (and cost).

The UniLodge multi-bedroom apartments provide a good model. Some of these could be produced with smaller (therefore cheaper) rooms using half the sapce. Essentially a student needs their own bed to sleep in, some storage space and a desk to study at. They do not need more than a single bed,  a desk big enough for a computer and a textbook. The student can use the common areas for socializing, cooking, eating and washing.

The practical minimum size for a dwelling in Australia is about 15 square meters (the area of a shipping container). But this is for a standalone, fully self contained home, whereas a student can use shared facilities for washing and cooking.

The reasonable smallest space for a student might be 5 square meters. This would provide enough space for a single bed, a desk and storage. Another 5 square meters would be needed per student for shared space. This might need some changes to government regulations.

No comments:

Post a Comment