The number one Stagecoach bus costs £1.90 for a single ticket for students wishing to travel between Heaton and the Marjorie Robinson Library Rooms. A tip-off from a fourth year Law student revealed that, because Northumbria University has campuses located by each of these bus stops – their City and Coach Lane campuses – they offer free transport to both students and staff using their student card. The free bus service is furthermore not just limited to daytime use, as it valid from 7am to 10:15pm seven days a week, which is beyond the usual lecture period.
The partnership covers five designated stops between Northumbria's City and Coach Lane campuses
The partnership has been amended since its introduction to cover not just direct travel between the City Campus (Civic Centre) and Coach Lane Campus (Chillingham Road) stops, but also between designated stops at the corner of Sandyford Road and Portland Terrace, the junction of Portland Road and Warwick Street, and the Warwick Street/Stadium.
Despite the partnership being established to facilitate transport between the two campuses, however, many students take advantage of the free transport for purposes other than this. The student revealed that some Northumbria University students who are based only on the City Campus use the buses to travel between their accommodation and the city centre or the main City Campus.
A Northumbria University spokesperson said: “Recognising student feedback we entered into partnership with Stagecoach to provide students free travel, funded by the University, between our City and Coach Lane Campuses in March 2015. This point to point service also includes evenings and weekend travel. Since then we have developed the offer to include additional stops in Heaton and is still very popular, so much so, that Stagecoach recently agreed to provide additional buses on the route during peak times at the beginning of semester.”
Discussing Northumbria’s policy, Commuting Students’ Officer Sian Dickie said: “I am aware that Newcastle University lacks transport cards and subsidies for its own students. This is my main priority for the year, and I already have plans underway to come up with a solution. I also take this route through Heaton, so understand this student’s frustration. However, the reason why Northumbria has this current benefit is due to their Inter-Campus Travel Scheme, as Northumbria University is split between Coach Lane Campus and the city centre. This doesn’t justify why Newcastle University hasn’t done something similar, but I do believe that if our University could negotiate for this route too, it would benefit many in our student population - particularly, people who take part in sport as their training area is next to the Coach Lane Campus, which the Northumbria students’ attend.”
One fourth year Law student said: “I find this extremely irritating, especially as we pay the same in student fees and Northumbria University supplements this travel yet Newcastle doesn't. I didn't mind about paying for the transport until I became aware that if I was simply in the university across the street it would be free. I personally find this as another example of Newcastle University not providing for their students as they could do.”
Students have argued that the lack of free travel for Newcastle University students shows its failure to provide adequate support for those from a lower socio-economic background. This is especially the case because students living in Heaton often do so because of the generally lower rents there, and thus it is home to many students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who would greatly benefit from free transport to campus.
A survey in April 2017 revealed that 58% of students in Newcastle felt under-represented within the Students’ Union as a working-class student
Despite the role of Commuting Students’ Officer being recently introduced, criticism has been attracted towards the lack of a Working Class Students Liberation Officer at the Students’ Union. This was once addressed in a motion brought to Student Council in 2017, in which it was argued that such an officer should be introduced to mirror the likes of Manchester University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and St Hilda’s College, Oxford. This came following a survey revealing that 58% of students in Newcastle in April 2017 felt they were under represented within the Students’ Union as a working-class student. The motion proposed that the officer would “represent the interests of working class students within the Students’ Union, the University, and other appropriate organisations”, including being a member of the University’s Diversity Consultative Group and liaising with the Welfare & Equality Officer to provide representation, signposting and awareness to those affected by classism. This motion was ultimately rejected at Council.