Students at the University of St Andrews are being housed in Dundee due to an affordable housing “crisis” in the historic Fife town.
Approximately 140 students have been offered housing in halls of residence in Dundee – 14 miles north of the campus – with the university acknowledging an “acute housing shortage”.
The university, which was voted number one in the UK by the Guardian’s University Guide for 2023, has cited rising numbers of Air BnBs among reasons for the shortage.
On Sunday a student-led organisation named CASH St Andrews (Campaign for Affordable Student Housing) marched through the university campus to demand action on the issue.
They said: “We took on St Andrews and showed University leadership and our elected representatives that we say enough is enough.
“We demand action on the local housing crisis and we won’t stop until St Andrews is affordable and accessible for our entire community.”
The group are hosting a meeting with the town’s local tenants union and Living Rent on Tuesday evening.
It comes after STV News previously reported on the housing crisis facing students at the University of Glasgow who have been told to withdraw from their studies if they cannot find suitable housing in the city.
The National Union of Students (NUS) said they are “deeply concerned” at the housing shortages on campuses including Glasgow and say the problem is reflected across Scotland.
In St Andrews, factors including landlords increasingly opting to let their properties as Air BnB rather than to students along with an increase in student numbers have been cited as reasons for the housing squeeze.
A cap on the numbers of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) has also been raised by the University of St Andrews as a contributing factor to the problem.
Additionally, the town’s hosting of The Open Championship golf tournament, and the resulting increase in tourist numbers, has put further pressure on the availability of private lets, according to the university.
In August, a message was sent to students who were unsuccessful in securing a place in halls of residence urging them to consider Dundee as an alternative area to live.
The message, seen by STV News, states: “As many of you already know, there is an acute shortage of private-sector accommodation in St Andrews just now caused by a range of external factors which are unlikely to ease in the short term.
“We know that this is causing concern to some students who have not already secured a place to live for the new academic year. Over the past week, around 130 students have contacted us to say they are having difficulty finding accommodation.
“We sympathise greatly with the stress you have reported flat hunting in a housing environment that has this year become more highly pressured than ever. We are listening to you, and working to find solutions.”
The university say a number of measures are in place to support those forced to live outwith the town including a night bus service six nights a week.
A university spokesperson told STV News: “We have no undergraduate returning students on our housing waiting lists, and we have met our longstanding guarantee to offer all first-year entrants a place in University accommodation. Our student population this year is almost exactly the same size as it was last year. We provide more University accommodation per head of student population than any university in the UK outside of the Oxbridge colleges.”
They added: “St Andrews has faced exactly the same contraction in the private rental market as other university cities and towns – landlords moving away from private lets to Air BnB because of changes to the law in Scotland, and the proposed Scottish Government rent freeze. That’s why we moved early to secure a student residence in Dundee this year to help students unable to find a place in the private sector.
“Like every other university in the country, our numbers increased in 2020 and 2021 not through choice but because of the decision of the UK and Scottish Governments to award Highers and A-Levels on teacher-assessed grades. This led to a much larger number of applicants meeting their conditional offers, which universities were legally obliged to honour.”
Following reports of the housing shortages in Glasgow, the NUS said the problem was getting worse across Scotland.
NUS Scotland president Ellie Gomersall said: “I’m deeply concerned by continued reports of student housing shortages across Glasgow – the second year in a row that this has happened.
“NUS Scotland’s Broke survey, published earlier this year, found that 12% of students in Scotland had experienced homelessness since they began their studies. With cost-of-living rising and without any action from institutions and the Scottish Government I cannot see how student homelessness won’t go up this year.
“We are delighted that the Scottish Government has heeded NUS Scotland’s calls for a rent freeze, but we now urgently need a long-term Student Housing Strategy that ensures every student has a safe, affordable, and quality home.”