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University of Kent students offered free meals to commute between Canterbury and Medway campuses

Students are being offered free meals to commute between university campuses after chiefs struggled to attract new students to its Medway site.

The University of Kent failed to meet its 470-student start of term target and is bringing freshers registered in Canterbury to fill empty accommodation at Liberty Quays in Gillingham.

Students are needed to fill accommodation in Medway
Students are needed to fill accommodation in Medway

The number of first year students signing up in Medway has been so low the university is offering accommodation places to other students to ensure digs are full.

Just 405 new students applied to study in Medway - 14% below target - by Wednesday last week, the first week of term, but postgraduate places on the Chatham Maritime campus went up 10% this year.

The university says it is “disappointed” not to have achieved its headline undergraduate target and put the fall down to the university market being “a very competitive external environment”.

Spokesman Gary Hughes said the numbers - which do not include students in the School of Pharmacy as it is run in partnership with Greenwich University and recruits separately - will continue to fluctuate for the first few weeks of term.

New students are expected to continue signing up before the deadline to register, which falls in mid-October, and final numbers are not due to be confirmed until after this date.

The Drill Hall library at the University of Kent at Medway's Chatham Maritime campus
The Drill Hall library at the University of Kent at Medway's Chatham Maritime campus

But bosses are set to review what courses it offers in Medway in a bid to attract more students in future years and are looking to “expand and refresh the portfolio”.

The institution says it will be looking specifically at its postgraduate provision in light of this year’s increase in students applying for further study after achieving their first degrees.

Recruitment in Canterbury has been successful in 2019 with applicants coming to the university via the clearance process and has seen an overspill of places compared to university accommodation available on the campus.

As a result, some 70 students registered in Canterbury are commuting daily on the university’s free shuttle bus - which connects the two campuses - from their halls at Liberty Quays in Pier Road instead of renting privately in the city.

The university says Canterbury students living in Medway have not been offered reduced rents but are being given a meal deal “as a gesture of goodwill for them opting to travel”.

The voucher can be used during term time at university-run outlets on both campuses.

New and first year students in Medway are given priority for accommodation at Liberty Quays with extra space offered to returning students.

Across the university’s two campuses, student numbers have fallen from a peak in 2015 when 5,485 new students registered, according to figures from UCAS - the national university admissions service.

Last year, the university accepted 5,065 - the lowest number since 2012 when 4,940 new students joined. Applications also fell from 28,645 in 2015 to 27,620 last year.

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