More than a fifth of international students have experienced homelessness during their studies in Scotland, a study has found.
Those studying from abroad are almost twice as likely to experience homelessness as others, the survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) has discovered.
Data compiled from 1,281 international students found that around one in five, 21%, had experienced homelessness after starting their studies compared to 12% of home students.
The NUS is calling for Scottish universities to make assurances that international students have access to housing through the introduction of a student housing guarantee.
The union is also calling for universities to widen the current criteria for their hardship funds for international students, who are often excluded from receiving such support.
It comes as the study also found international students were experienced wider struggles with obtaining housing including failing to have a UK-based guarantor, which most landlords require in order to secure tenancy.
Around 42% of international students have gone without heating and 49% have skipped a mean while 10% said they have been forced to use foodbanks.
NUS Scotland president Ellie Gomersall said: “The rates of homelessness in international students are unacceptable.
“Scotland prides itself on having a world-class education system, but this is being undermined by the way we treat those coming to learn from other countries.
“International students are expected to pay extortionate fees but have no support once they arrive in Scotland, facing homelessness and skipping meals just to get by.
“It is time for the Scottish Government and institutions to act.
“Universities can support international students by introducing a student housing guarantee that ensures there is a bed guaranteed to every international student from the moment they arrive in Scotland.
“They must also extend their hardship and discretionary funding so that international students can apply for them.
“The Scottish Government should use their devolved powers to cap how much universities can charge international students.”
Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo, president of Aberdeen University Students’ Association, and a recently graduated international-EU student, said there is a misconception that international students are wealthy.
She said: “The cost-of-living crisis is affecting international students disproportionately in the current economy as visa fees, exchange rates, and budgeting has become increasingly more difficult.
“International students are far more at risk of experiencing homelessness.
“International students are less likely to come forward when they are struggling because they are worried about how being homeless may affect their visa.
“They have very few opportunities with limited working hours and no access to public funds.”
Higher education minister Graeme Dey said: “Scotland welcomes international students from all over the world and they are an important part of our student community. This report raises significant issues which I know universities will take seriously as they seek to ensure they have robust plans in place to assist in finding accommodation.
“Although the Scottish Government has no direct role in provision of student residential accommodation, we are determined to improve accessibility, affordability and standards in the purpose-built student accommodation sector and are carrying out a review of that provision right now.
“At the same time, we are developing proposals for improving privately-rented accommodation more generally which we set out in our draft New Deal for Tenants.
“Both pieces of work will inform a Student Accommodation Strategy for Scotland for the benefit of all students studying in Scotland.”
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