10,000 students a year struggling for accommodation

29 Jan 2023
Willie Rennie MSP

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie has today challenged the Scottish Government to secure more accommodation for the year ahead as he revealed new figures showing that in each of the last two years, more than 10,000 students were unable to secure university accommodation.

Freedom of information requests submitted by Scottish Liberal Democrats have revealed that, at the 13 universities who provided figures:

  • In 2020/21, 43,029 applied for accommodation with 32,590 getting places.
  • In 2021/22, 46,351 applied for accommodation with 36,208 getting places.
  • The number of students relying on temporary university accommodation rose from 647 in 2020/21 to 1,590 in 2021/22.
  • As of 3 November 2022, the number of students on waiting lists for accommodation was 991.
  • The furthest from campus that a student was allocated accommodation was 28 miles for a student at University of Glasgow.

In August 2022, students at University of Glasgow who live within commuting distance were automatically denied accommodation while prospective students from further afield were also told they are no longer guaranteed a place to stay. The university blamed increased demand and a "significant contraction" in Glasgow's private rental market, while the Students' Representative Council (SRC) claimed the university had accepted too many new students.

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.”