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Over 10,000 Scottish students denied university accommodation each year

‘There must be no repeat of the chaotic scenes that we saw in the autumn’


Over 10,000 students at Scottish universities have been denied a place in university accommodation in each of the last two years, new figures show.

In 2020-21, 43,029 applications for official uni accommodation were received in Scotland, with 32,590 being offered places. Similarly, in 2021-22, 36,208 students received an accommodation place out of 46,351 applications.

The new figures, obtained by a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, also reveal almost 1,600 students were being housed in temporary student accommodation in 2021-22, a rise of nearly 950 on the previous academic year.

The Scottish Lib Dems’ education spokesperson, Willie Rennie, has asked the Scottish government to ensure more rooms are available in time for the start of the next teaching year in September.

“Missing out on student accommodation can mean missing out on the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new city, make friends and make the most of the opportunities which comes with university life”, he said in reaction to the new data.

“There must be no repeat of the chaotic scenes that we saw in the autumn where pupils were forced to cram into hastily assembled dormitories or having to commute long distances”.

In advance of the 2022-23 academic year, those attending Glasgow University who lived within commuting distance were automatically denied a place in university accommodation. The student in Scotland whose allocated accommodation was furthest from their campus attended Glasgow, having to travel 28 miles to reach classes.

991 students were on official university accommodation waiting lists in November 2022, the data shows.

The figures follow several student housing scandals in Scotland. Students at Edinburgh University were being forced to live in bunk beds in accommodation block common rooms in October, as both the city’s student accommodation and private rented sectors failed to cater for the number of undergraduates requiring housing.

Glasgow University advised its students to “suspend” their studies or “withdraw” from the university if they had not obtained accommodation in time to begin their studies, The Tab reported.

Glasgow University advised its students to “suspend” their studies or “withdraw” from the university if they had not obtained accommodation in time to begin their studies, The Tab reported.

Rennie, a former leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, suggests the shortage has been exacerbated by higher university admissions during the pandemic, when school pupils were unable to sit in-person exams.

“The Scottish Government knew that there would be a surge in part as a result of the higher Covid qualifications pass rate but did little to deal with the shortage of accommodation across the country”.

The data only includes figures from the Scottish universities that responded to the Freedom of Information request.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats education spokesperson, Willie Rennie, said:

“Missing out on student accommodation can mean missing out on the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new city, make friends and make the most of the opportunities which comes with university life.

“There must be no repeat of the chaotic scenes that we saw in the autumn where pupils were forced to cram into hastily assembled dormitories or having to commute long distances.

“The Scottish Government knew that there would be a surge in part as a result of the higher Covid qualifications pass rate but did little to deal with the shortage of accommodation across the country.

“The SNP Government has also failed to address some of the negative consequences of its housing legislation from recent years and it is students who have paid the price through the lack of adequate housing even though they have a place at university. Ministers and universities must put their heads together and come up with a new plan before another academic year rolls around”.

A Scottish government spokesperson told Scottish Housing News that a record amount is being invested in student support.

The Tab has contacted the Scottish government for further comment.

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