The student claims the room they were living in during Michaelmas 2022 made them lose weight from being “physically sick"Louis Ashworth

A Sidney Sussex student has claimed that the college has failed to provide accommodation suitable to their medical needs since they matriculated, and has called trying to achieve accessibility a “draining” process.

The student has repeatedly moved in and out of private and college accommodation, and was described by College staff as “making a poor excuse of busy people’s time”.

The student told Varsity that since they began their degree, in October 2022, the college has not provided adequately accessible accommodation, despite them providing a Student Support Document (SSD).

They felt “forced” into private accommodation, where they experienced stalking and harassment from one of their housemates. Upon asking to return to college accommodation, Sidney were reluctant to offer a solution, the student said.

Sidney has since provided college accommodation, but the student told Varsity that this still does not fit their needs, and that the length of the lease is unclear. The room is so inadequate the student has had to resort to “crashing” with their friends, which has meant they’ve had to repeatedly rearrange supervisions, they said.

When the student first began at Sidney Sussex, they were assigned an inaccessible room despite submitting a Student Support Document (SSD) in August.

The college failed to upload the SSD to their system until mid October after the student chased the matter. This meant they also could not access lecture recordings, alongside not having an accessible room.

The student suffers from mobility issues which means they can’t walk long distances and struggle with stairs, as well as suffering from visual impairment. They also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which means they can only eat food prepared in a certain way, making kitchen facilities a necessity for them.

The student claims the room they were living in during Michaelmas 2022 made them “so physically sick that (they) lost 10kg by week 6”.

They were moved to a more accessible room in Lent 2023, after inquiring about a college transfer due to their access issues. However, after the student’s wallet was robbed during a fire drill in College, they struggled to afford food for a month. The student says the College never replied to their inquiries about the robbery.

Sidney Sussex offers emergency funding of up to £200 to students in extenuating circumstances, which the student inquired about after this situation. Despite the college agreeing to supply the money and the student sending their bank details to Sidney’s Student Finance Manager, they never received the money.

The student was told they could stay in college accommodation over the summer as they are unable to return home during breaks. They moved into an offsite house during the break, which they claim was not accessible.

The student was only arranged to stay in the house until July, after which they were going into private accommodation which they had arranged to live in for the next academic year. However, this arrangement fell through at the last minute, which the College did not deem to be extenuating circumstances. This left the student effectively homeless.

They managed to find alternative private accommodation for the summer but at great financial cost. This was after being offered a room in Sidney’s pre-ballot, but the student told Varsity that none of the three options given to them suited their needs.

The student moved into a different private accommodation in Cambridge for the current academic year. However, they suffered harassment and stalking from one of their housemates in this accommodation, who went as far as to steal their post. The situation became so serious the student went to the police about the matter.

They claimed to Varsity they reported it to their tutor but were told they had given up their right to be housed by the college that year after moving into private accommodation.

They no longer felt safe enough to eat and sleep in their home and resorted to moving out, whilst still paying rent. The student told Varsity they slept on the JCR sofa and park benches in Sidney’s gardens.

They also didn’t have access to a kitchen so had to eat out for most meals which was both expensive and made the student very ill.

Over Christmas, the situation still hadn’t been resolved and the student slept on a table in Sidney’s library and the JCR.

The student has had to resort to a public appeal via their social media to find places to stay. They have been spending a few nights at a time in their friend’s rooms whilst trying to find alternative accommodation, having had to move most of their supervisions online due to this situation.

The student has told Varsity that the pastoral support during this entire period has been poor and they feel as though “College didn’t show any sympathy towards the situation” and they were just a “passive presence” whilst the student was expected to sort everything out.

In emails to the student seen by Varsity, Sidney’s Senior Tutor, Max Beber, described the student’s conduct throughout the situation as “not acceptable behaviour”, accusing them of “making a poor excuse of busy people’s time” and describing their behaviour as “neither courteous, nor professional”.


Mountain View

Pro-Palestine protesters disrupt vice-chancellor interview

They also claim that they were discouraged from contacting Varsity in pastoral meetings about their accommodation situation.

The student told Varsity that the whole situation has been “emotionally difficult” and has felt at times that they are “just causing an annoyance”.

They commended Sidney’s JCR, which has been “really helpful” and “wanted to help with the little resources they have”. However, the College is unable to discuss the situations of individual students with the JCR, despite the student feeling that “they could be used as a case study for College’s failings,” they said.

This is not the first time Sidney Sussex has been accused of poor accessibility. A Varsity investigation in February last year revealed several situations in which disabled students were not treated well, with them claiming the College acted in breach of the Equality Act. A later article in September reported the College’s court battle over access disputes with a student.

Sidney Sussex College told Varsity: “The College does not consider it appropriate to comment on matters related to individual students.”