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Friends of the university: By chance or by design?

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University of Bristol

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The University of Bristol targets diverse student communities

students often end up making friendships by going with their "cool" peers to those who are located in their accommodation, but what determines who lives next to each other?

BBC research The use of freedom of information laws (FOI) ) has revealed that some universities may have amazing policies on how rooms are allocated.

An important educational benefit of going to college is learning to mix with, and know about, a more diverse range of people with different backgrounds. life experiences

On the other hand, starting college can be a stressful event that gets easier if the students are surrounded by the kind of people they are familiar with or can follow.

Both are valid considerations, but they can be conflicting priorities, and different institutions resolve this dilemma in different ways.

One of the most explicit policies appointments that promote social integration is the University of Bristol, which aspires to "create diverse and balanced communities within the residences, with special reference to nationality, gender, faculty and type of school".

'Less nostalgia'

Therefore, it adopts a system of percentage objectives for each category of residence.

The university emphasizes its commitment to create balanced communities to reflect the set Population profile student

Similarly, the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen states: "The assignment team will adopt an integration policy with regard to cultural diversity and religious beliefs."

King's College , London, seeks to "reach, wherever possible and based on availability, a balanced mix between gender and nationality to reflect the diversity that students favor "

Chichester seeks to have" balanced communities "with origins and mixed ages, while Lancaster says it tries to" avoid homogeneity. " groups in one area. "

But there are other universities that seem to give more priority to the grouping of" novices "with several similar characteristics, to facilitate their transition to university life.

In some cases , universities ask students for considerable details about their personalities, for example, are they "reserved" or "outgoing"?

What are your lifestyle preferences? This ranges from drinking and smoking, to cleanliness and how early they get up.

Hobbies and interests also come into play, such as music, clubs, cooking or sports.

Warwick, for example, tries to match students with similar hobbies, on the basis that "for the first time" years, this can break the ice and help them calm down and feel less nostalgic. "

Strathclyde takes into account the interests of leisure and says: "We would try to gather the people in order, we would avoid bringing people together in the morning and at night, since their sleep patterns will collide."

Alcohol-free dorms

Bedford's FOI response to us included promotional material for a specialized commercial algorithm that employs personality and lifestyle factors.

This states that it "predicts the relative" compatibility "of resident combinations" and states that it leads to fewer complaints, lower levels of conflict and a better sense of community.

Numerous institutions (including Canterbury Christ Church, Cardiff Met, Exeter, Reading, West of England, Winchester, York) have a policy of grouping students who express their preference for a quiet and / or alcohol-free area.

Of the 100 universities of which the BBC received useful information on their housing policies, 17 allow this option for non-alcoholic areas and 39 for quiet areas.

The National Student Union supports the students who have this choice Their vice-president Eva Crossan Jory says: "It is good for students to have these options." Our opinion is that adaptation should focus on what students want. "


A few universities, such as Keele, Liverpool and Sunderland, offer friendship groups that come together to the university, the opportunity to book rooms together.

But in contrast, the West of England says that friends "generally do not meet together" as it would affect the social dynamics of residences.

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Sydney Sussex College in Cambridge has a policy of not bringing students from the same school "to expand the circle of peers with whom they will come into contact" .

Most institutions have Some floors of a single gender for those who prefer that.

Sheffield offers accommodation specifically for LGBT students who would like this to "feel safe."

Some group students who eat a vegetarian, halal or kosher diet.

The National Union of Students is not happy with the lack of accessible rooms on some campuses, which limits accommodation options for students with disabilities.

Many universities, including East Anglia, Essex, Keele, Kent, Oxford Brookes, Sunderland, Winchester and Worcester, state that they specifically intend to mix British and international students from several countries.

In contrast, East London plans to have a predominantly international room, and Glyndwr will locate students from the same country.


Many colleges have a range of cost bands for different housing qualities, from which students choose or set a higher spending limit. This inevitably tends to promote grouping by social class, even if that is not the intention.

"Within each university, there is usually a hierarchical order where students live," says Professor Harriet Bradley, a sociologist at the University of the West of England, who studies the impact of higher education on social mobility.

"The students themselves are very aware of this segregation."

Universities have discretion about how to allocate rooms within each cost band.

Professor Bradley believes that they should try to mix social classes, possibly using home postal codes as the best practical indicator of the class.

"Friendship is important," he adds. "Getting your first job often depends on knowing the right people."

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Many policies establish that students are grouped by similar ages.

This often means separating a little older university students (say, older than 21).

But where it means to separate 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds, it often involves dividing those who did not have a gap year before starting college.

Taking a good year off can affect the level of maturity of students, but it can also be linked to social class.

In some universities, such as Greenwich, Northumbria and Nottingham Trent, the accommodation service does not allocate rooms centrally, but allows incoming students to book specific rooms online, choosing among those that are still available.

This system would allow first-year students who already know each other to be able to fit together.

All these problems arise from the British tradition of what are sometimes called "boarding schools", where the majority of students do not stay in the family home, in contrast to many other countries.

The allocation Student housing is an important and lasting social force in Great Britain, but one that does not seem to have been investigated. "It's a difficult and sloppy subject," says Professor Bradley,

Patrick Cowling's research.

  • You can follow Martin Rosenbaum on Twitter as @ rosenbaum6

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