Exeposé News Issue 655, front page & page 4 (31 May 2016) and Exeposé News online (31 May 2016)
Moberly House will close this summer for much-needed renovation work – but as Exeter’s cheapest catered accommodation shuts its doors for the foreseeable future, former residents worry this could spell the end of affordable halls on campus.
Built in the 1960s, Moberly – situated between Duryard and Birks Grange to the west of Streatham campus – has only remained open in recent years “due to the high number of academic applications” from students. Billed as budget accommodation, the catered halls cost residents £4,570 for a 32-week contract in 2015/16, including breakfast, dinner and weekend brunch in Birks Grange canteen.
In 2008, Moberly was the subject of a parody YouTube video by students named “The Moberly House Appeal.” Dramatising the halls’ slow internet connection, bare-brick walls and frequent power cuts and plumbing issues, the video has received almost 8,000 views.
But the budget halls are set to undergo drastic renovation.
“Our Moberly halls of residence will be temporarily closed once this year’s students have vacated their bedrooms in June,” Phil Attwell, Director of Campus Services told Exeposé.
“The building is in need of some investment,” he explained: “we would like to enhance the facilities on offer by providing high quality self-catered accommodation at Moberly in the future.”
Yet Moberly’s residents from recent years have expressed mixed views of the building and its upcoming renovation. “It’s a sh*t hole that builds character,” one third year student told Exeposé. Despite the fact that the building looked like an “asylum,” she “had one of the best years” of her life there. She expressed concerns at the planned changes, adding: “if it was self-catered it would be even more isolated than it already is, because of its location.”
Ex-resident Jasper Kidwell worried that converting Moberly to self-catered flats could “completely ruin Moberly’s best aspect: the fact that the whole place was a real community, thus probably the most sociable halls on campus.”
Meanwhile 2013/14 resident Matilda O’Regan told Exeposé: “I think it’s a real shame that Moberly is being shut to create new – and probably much more expensive – accommodation.” Adding “Moberly was my first choice and I don’t regret it one bit,” she admitted: “yes it was worn down, but that’s what gave it character.”
Jessie Cassidy, another ex-resident, also worried that the changes could raise Moberly’s rents. “Exeter should keep its cheaper halls where possible,” she said, “so students who want to can save money for other things in life,” while fellow 2013/14 resident Rachel Burdon added: “Moberly seems to be the only relatively reasonably priced catered halls,” asking: “Why take that away?”
Asked about possible rent rises for Moberly, Phil Attwell told Exeposé: “rent levels will form part of our annual discussions with the Guild.” In terms of the budget for the refurbishment, he explained: “options to invest in Moberly are being considered at present.”
This isn’t the first time Moberly House has closed in recent years. In the 2012/13 academic year the halls were not available to rent – but in August 2013, Exeposé reported that Exeter’s increased student numbers meant Moberly would have to re-open.
The news was met with concern from former residents – with then second year student Richard Berry warning: “If the conditions are the same as they were last year then it is not fit for student living.”#
The University carried out “some minor works within the residence” before re-opening in September 2013 However, it’s unknown how long these upcoming changes will take.
When asked when Moberly would reopen for the student population, Attwell said that project timescales and a timeline for Moberly’s re-opening were “yet to be finalised.”