Notes of session on 29 September (Bruce Hall)
The Vice-Chancellor briefly outlined the importance of the residential experience, and how ANU prides itself on the experience it offers in this regard. However, many of the halls of residence are more than 40 years old and were not built to last. As they are starting to approach the end of their usable life, we are considering what to do about the situation. We need to have accommodation that meets student expectations around access and standard of facilities.
Value of communal dining area and the community
There was a very strong feeling of affection expressed by the residents for the community that has been built at Bruce Hall. Questions were asked about how this would transfer to newer spaces.
Student comment: What we do value and what is important to us is the communal eating space. It means we are forced to have social interaction and forced to be drawn out.
Student comment: The dining hall at Bruce Hall is a social hub.
Student comment: Again, the dining hall. Other places don’t have much catered, with a common cafeteria. This means that there is no atmosphere. If the residence is too big, there is no attachment to the place you are living in. I think that Bruce Hall is better. We take pride in the residence. We can make friends with staff. It also means that if you are feeling low, you can have a family style eating experience that helps to bring you out of it.
Student comment: However, the hallways are narrow. This means that it is difficult to keep a community going. It is easier to develop communities in the corridors if they are wider, as well as the main hub space. We could get around this by creating smaller hub areas where people can socialise as well.
Student comment: We need to have a community where you can get to know people. But not more than about 300.
Student comment: Bruce Hall has community coordinators etc that work. The people here are great and integral in the culture and we have pride in the place that you call home.
Richard Baker: Day 1 a new hall won’t have a culture. How much has to develop and how much you can socially engineer are questions for us. The best thing that we can do is to populate it with people who have experienced ANU. To select SRs who have experience in other halls of residence across the university.
Vice-Chancellor: We need to take feedback and put the right structures in place so it can develop.
Student comment: Another thing is the well-resourced common room committee, student lead. I would hope that that structure is continued. Having that side of your home, it runs the social life. It is something that I love about Bruce and am very proud of.
Richard Baker: We are building around that – how the communities will work. We are looking how to set up leaders and senior students in a new building. It will be similar to how the affiliate colleges work.
According to the regulation code how high can we go?
Richard Baker: We can go to six floors along Daley Road. One empty then five more. The NCA is looking carefully at our plans and what we are doing. We need to examine the situation carefully – will we run out of space, even if we could get another 3000 places?
Graduate housing – what will we be doing about post graduates. Can we have separate accommodation for post-graduate students, and accommodation for families in a hall environment? Even if it is just one floor?
Vice-Chancellor: We are now looking at redeveloping Union Square – and offering another possible 700 beds there as well. In this area we will be looking at offering graduate apartments that would work for families, and also junior staff who wish to live on campus.
Student comment: Sometimes it seems that the graduates are pushing to have post-graduates only at Toad. But need to look at mix – there are advantages and disadvantages to having post graduate only halls. It is not about the mix but it about the placement of the post-graduate wing.
Student comment: I was involved in the development of SA5. One thing that was not mentioned was about the operations. For the new colleges, will they be ANU owned and run? There could be a risk with using SA5 as an experiment.
Richard Baker: Unilodge is to operate SA5 – that was a bit of an experiment. But any ANU hall of residence will have to operate by criteria set by the university.
Will the new residences be affordable for students?
Student comment: I acknowledge the halls at ANU are cheaper than in other cities, but there is an issue with attracting the best students if the residents are priced out. A lot of people won’t come here as they can’t afford it. It is relatively cheaper than Sydney and Melbourne, but the price is still front of mind for students.
Vice-Chancellor: Modelling shows that we can offer tariffs that will be financially viable for the halls but will be cheaper for residents. It is very expensive to run Bruce Hall as the operating costs are so high. We need to make them as low as possible to get the tariff as low as possible. So we look at what we can trade off. For instance with SA5, we did things to reduce costs. So for instance the heating was a high priority, but there will be more emphasis on passive cooling rather than air conditioning. The first thing is to look at energy efficiency to reduce costs, so we can reduce tariffs.
Richard Baker: There are lots of meetings to work out the costs and savings needs. We are also trying to ramp up the number of scholarships to help students. We haven’t solved the problem but it is front of mind.
Applications and Auto Allocation
Student comment: I would like to ask about the selection process – and alumni of halls and how this relates. In the past the Head of Hall had the ability to choose the residents. Alumni like their children to come here and this can be very beneficial. If they can’t select students, they can’t ensure that. If we lose Alumni connections, we are losing a lot.
Student comment: One of the best things here is that everyone is level. Not drawing from certain schools. Being able to select is important. Heads should be able to determine who comes.
Richard Baker: The solution to it is to have enough beds. Our task is to build enough beds so that people don’t have to apply here and end up somewhere else.
Student comment: I have a sibling who doesn’t know any international students.
Richard Baker: When we didn’t have auto allocation the international student numbers were lower.
Student comment: People put a lot into the application process. If a lot of people from one person’s hometown come here, they then want to come here. A lot of students then feel that it would be easier to go to another university. It does happen that you want to come here and then get placed somewhere else. Different colleges value different things. The lottery system may turn away really good students. They will apply for a hall which will take them rather than the one that they really want.
Richard Baker: Our task is to find a fair way to allocate accommodation.
Student comment: It depends on what the halls think your merits are – some are getting more applications. There was a huge hall effort on Open Day to sell Bruce Hall to applicants so that we get the best. The lottery system changes that. It is a detriment for people to come here if they don’t want to be here
Student comment: If you have more students on campus then there will be a need for more GPs or counsellors so don’t you need to expand these services as well? There shouldn’t be a lag. Need to have the infrastructure to support.
Richard Baker: We need to deliver on the real vision of the community. The services that students need. This means the necessities of life, health, sport and that range.
Vice-Chancellor: Thank you very much for that spirited positive range of questions. Finding out what works, what does not and do it better next time round is important. Thanks for your time.