The College urged students on mandatory internships to look for rooms on AirbnbLouis Ashworth for Varsity

Students at Clare College are being routinely denied access to college accommodation outside of term time, Varsity has learned.

Clare has boasted a “strong summer” for summer school and conference revenue, while students have criticised the College for “prioritising [its] business side”.

Clare has told students to look for accommodation on Airbnb rather than in college during the holidays, with one student having been turned away from their dining hall by security.

Clare’s hosting of prestigious conferences and summer schools, which book rooms months in advance, are understood to be the main reasons for the lack of accommodation.

Engineering students, who have to partake in mandatory six-week work experience to complete their degrees, have been particularly affected.

Ghunho Min, a third-year Engineering student at Clare, told Varsity they were surprised at the lack of any provisions: “At first they said they rented every single room, and I just didn’t believe that, and then I emailed again saying surely you have one spare room, and they said no.”

In an email to the College seen by Varsity, Min stressed that he had “no alternative accommodations available in the UK”. In response, the College directed the student to SpareRoom and Airbnb, where the rent was “over 10k for three months”, the student claims.

Haley Huang, also a third-year Engineer at Clare, told Varsity that students are forced to find accommodation elsewhere: “At least four of us stayed at Caius for the entire summer, pretty sure more stayed at different colleges.”

Huang said that many feel financial pressure to stay in Cambridge over the summer: “For a lot of students, it’s easiest to get jobs in Cambridge.”

Min, who stayed in Caius over the summer, attempted to enter college but was turned away by external security: “I just wanted to pass through Old Court to go to the buttery for dinner, but I couldn’t do that [...] the entirety of Old Court and Memorial Court was ARM everywhere.”

ARM, a Cambridge-based chip designer, was hosted by Clare over the summer. The company supplies the biggest names in tech and in 2020 signed a three-year deal with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency that works to expand the technological capabilities of the US military.

Min also drew attention to the summer schools hosted by Clare: “Prioritising summer schools over us – that’s unbearable for me, they last much longer than conferences, two weeks to a month. It’s a bloody university and they prioritise these rich kids.”

Another Clare student said: “I reached out to the accommodation office a few times and was told no on several occasions even when stressing that I was unable to find accommodation for my internship. In the end, I managed to find accommodation through a mutual friend.”

Asked what they thought of Clare’s conference business, the student said: “I think Clare is verging on prioritising the business side of college over looking after their students which is worrying [...] I think it’s important to remember I was offered accommodation from several other colleges that weren’t Clare.”

Min echoed these concerns: “I don’t think any incoming students would know this issue, and then not knowing that they just apply to Clare. They’re eventually going to face this issue, and they’re going to hate this college.”


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According to the minutes of the Clare College 2022 Finance Committee, revenue for the financial year ending June 2023 was estimated to be in excess of £3 million, as a result of a “strong summer” from conferencing and summer schools.

The College emphasises, however, that this income is “not sufficient to cover the costs of College life”.

A Clare College spokesperson said: “Clare offers a number of accommodation licences, in line with other Colleges. We try to support students staying over the summer for an internship.”

“Due to major building works in College for essential repairs, restoration and refurbishment some rooms are not currently available. However, the College has some provision for internship students for summer 2024,” they said