Student rent has risen 34% in three years across Scotland

The average annual cost for student accommodation in Scotland now stands at £6,853, according to new figures from student housing charity Unipol and the National Union of Students (NUS). 

NUS Scotland calls for rent controls and tenants’ rights as cost-of-living hits a record high.

  • The average annual rent for purpose-built student accommodation in Scotland reached £6,853 in 2021/22, a 34% increase on pre-Covid levels (£5,111 in 2018).
  • For students studying in Scotland, average annual rents stand at £6,853 which accounts for 88% of the maximum student loan of £7,750, leaving students with £22.42 per week. For students receiving the minimum financial package, the average Scottish rent is 144% of the available loan.
  • Intervention is required to ensure no student is priced out of education and widening access potential is realised.
  • Private providers dominate the market, with 70% of the bed spaces surveyed being provided by the private sector as universities move away from their own accommodation provision.
  • Private providers continue to grow, and universities increasingly rely on them to fulfil guarantees to first-year undergraduates. Universities and private partners need to work together to share responsibility for welfare now more than ever before.

The findings form part of the Accommodation Costs Survey 2021/22, a survey of university, private and charitable providers of purpose-built student accommodation in the UK, to explore rental costs, stock provision, and the outlook of the sector. The respondents cover 473,684 purpose-built rooms which equate to an estimated 68% of the university accommodation market.

On average private providers charged students £7,322 for their accommodation this year. For students in university accommodation, they were charged an average of £5,809, which accounts for three-quarters (75%) of the maximum student loan available and outstrips the average annual student support payment for the first time.

Students “priced out” of education.

This research reveals that average annual rents in Scotland have increased by 34% since 2018/19. Now the National Union of Students for Scotland is calling for urgent intervention from the Scottish Government by introducing rent controls and a student housing strategy.

Private providers increasingly dominate the halls market, so that they now account for over three-quarters of rooms in the purpose-built sector. Student Halls used to be associated with university-owned accommodation - not anymore as many institutions have chosen to leave future housing provision to the private sector.

In 2021, across the UK 42% of university respondents reported that all staff who interacted with tenants had received Mental Health First Aid training. Whereas the private sector is lagging behind, with only 24% of staff holding the same qualification.

Commenting on the research Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland President, said:

“With a 34% rent hike over the last three years, it is clear that the student housing system in Scotland is fundamentally broken. It’s no wonder so many students are living in poverty when rent is far higher than the average student support payment.

“We need to see action now so that no student has to face the prospect of experiencing homelessness, sacrificing food, or dropping out of college or university because of expensive rent.

“The Scottish Government must heed the warnings implicit in these eye-watering figures and urgently create a student housing strategy which includes rent controls. The disconnect between student income and rent levels poses an extreme and immediate threat to access and participation in education.”

Martin Blakey, Chief Executive at Unipol commented:

“Student halls are expensive and getting more expensive. The student maintenance system is broken and unless students can access help from parents or part-time work, many would find it difficult to pay these rent levels.

“If access to higher education is to be maintained and enhanced, then poorer students need affordable accommodation to enable them to study at a university of their choice or accommodation providers need to provide help through targeted accommodation bursaries.”

Martin Blakey continues:

“The survey highlights the fundamental shifts in the market with the private sector taking on many responsibilities of universities.

“There is much more work to be done to ensure universities and private sector work together to overcome the emerging challenges. Build costs and construction inflation are not going away, but there is a need for new development.

“In order that all students can access accommodation, the sector now needs to consider targeting financial support at students who need it, to maintain accessibility and affordability.”

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