Students across Scotland face a “choice between sofa-surfing or sky-high rents” for the coming academic year due to a shortage of affordable accommodation.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has warned more people undertaking higher education will be pushed to the brink of homelessness as a result of the skyrocketing cost of living and a lack of housing stock.
It comes just a week after Glasgow University pulled a “guarantee” on offers of accommodation due to an “unprecedented number of applications” from those arriving on campus.
The institution said demand had vastly exceeded supply, but some have been left in limbo and are reconsidering their places in the wake of the warning.
Research carried out by the NUS earlier this year found around 12% of students had experienced homelessness during their university tenure.
Similar shortages have also been reported in Edinburgh and St Andrews, the union said.
NUS Scotland President Ellie Gomersall added: “There are students across Scotland right now struggling to get accommodation for the year ahead. Last week we saw another record number of students from the most deprived communities accepted to university but if we don’t get a grip on our broken student housing system, we’re just setting students up to fail.
“Even before the cost-of-living crisis, 12% of students had experienced homelessness – without action I cannot see how this will not increase in the coming year.”
The average annual rent for purpose-built student accommodation in Scotland reached £6,853 in 2021/22, a 34% increase over the last three years, according to NUS research.
For those on the minimum financial support, rent costs can exceed 144% of their student loans, while a huge proportion said they had struggled to pay “basic living costs”.
“There is a prevailing narrative that students across Scotland are being pushed into poverty to complete their studies, and the system is clearly failing them,” the report added.
Ellie said: “We urgently need a student housing strategy, with rent controls and a student housing guarantee that ensures government, universities, and local authorities work together so every student has a safe, quality and affordable place to live.”