Students at a Scots university are being told to withdraw from their courses due to a housing “crisis” leaving them with nowhere to live.
The University of Glasgow has been widely criticised by students for a “terrible” lack of housing provision which has left many desperately applying to letting agents and being forced to sofa-surf with friends.
Students have now been told not to enrol in courses and not to travel to Glasgow at all if they are unable to secure accommodation in the city in advance.
An email from the university sent on September 9, shared with STV News, tells students “do not travel to Glasgow” unless their accommodation is in place.
It reads: “If you are not currently in Glasgow and do not yet have accommodation in the city, please do not travel to Glasgow before you have somewhere confirmed. Please ensure that you have secured accommodation prior to completing registration and enrolment and travelling.”
In another email, shared with STV News, an advising team told a student: “If you have not yet secured accommodation in Glasgow the university is strongly advising students NOT to complete registration or enrolment or travel to Glasgow until you have done so. Not following this advice may have significant impact on you. It may be more appropriate for you to suspend your studies or withdraw.”
However, many students say deferring their studies for a year is not an option.
Second year student Krishen Chadwick Patel, 19, told STV News he has been sofa-surfing for 10 days as he desperately tries to secure somewhere to live.
He said: “It’s been terrible. I have been sofa-surfing for 10 days now and just staying with mates. I’m quite lucky in that I have quite a lot of good friends but for many, especially international students with Visas. It’s awful.
“The Uni’s official guidance was to withdraw or suspend which would mean deferring and going back home for a year.
“Dropping out is not really an option for people, you would have to get a job when you want to be getting on with your studies.”
Mr Patel, from Manchester, is currently in second year studying business management and politics at the university and moved out of student halls last year.
He said: “I’m lucky I had a spare room at a friend’s but their flatmate came back on Saturday and so I have been lucky enough to have another friend but obviously it’s not the best situation at all.
“It’s nothing like having your own space, it’s so inconvenient especially at the start of term.”
For many courses, the university does not allow online learning and requires students to attend classes in person as part of their overall grade.
Mr Patel said: “It depends on the course, but attendance is key for some courses and we get a percentage as part of our grade which is worked out based on how many things we attended in person.”
Mr Patel is currently doing everything he can to secure accommodation, however he says the housing market has become a crisis with students being thrown to the bottom of the pile.
He said: “I know of at least 15 to 20 other people who are in the same situation. There will also be so many others who have just followed the uni guidance and not come to Glasgow.
“We have to be on sites like Rightmove and Gumtree all day. As soon as a flat comes up you have to reply instantly or put in an application.
“We are 19 or 20-years-old and we are going up against young professionals with full time jobs, landlords will chose them over us.
“I applied for a flat yesterday and they asked what I did. I explained that we were students but also had part-time jobs and also that our parents could support us and they said the flat was only open to full-time employed people.
“It’s a crisis and we’re at the bottom of the list.”
Geography student Lois Bornat told STV news how she and her friends have been looking for flats since April this year but have still been unable to secure anything.
The 20-year-old, from London, said: “Me and my friends started looking in April and kept looking until June when we had to go home for summer. We kept emailing and then started looking again in August.
“Each place on the market has hundreds of applicants, you call up places and they already have around 600 people.
“We managed to get one viewing in August but they took a whole week to get back to us just to say we didn’t get it.”
She added: “The advice that the university give us not to enrol is essentially telling us to drop out because they’re not offering any refund on tuition fees or funds to defer.”
Ms Bornat managed to find accommodation for one month with a friend but is still hunting for longer term accommodation.
Mr Patel added that the experience has ruined the positive impression he had of the university from first year: “I have had the best first year and if you asked me six months ago I would have recommended it to everyone but if you asked me now I would say no. Ever since we started looking for flats it’s all gone downhill so much.”
While Mr Patel was able to stay in university halls for first year, the university cannot guarantee a place in halls for every student.
Mr Patel said: “They’re over recruiting so much, it just makes me think next year is going to be absolutely impossible.”
A University of Glasgow spokesperson said: “Regrettably, due to a significant contraction in the private rental market, demand for rooms continues to be substantially ahead of expectation both in Glasgow and more broadly across the UK. Like most urban universities, we cannot guarantee accommodation for returning students.
“As part of our efforts to address the issue, we have increased the number of rooms under University management by 25 per cent for this academic year. We have focused – as is our usual policy – on providing accommodation to first-year undergraduate students who live at a significant distance from our campus. There has been no significant increase in student numbers for this year.
“To address issues with the availability of accommodation within Glasgow, we are already taking steps to increase accommodation provision for future years and we are continuing to engage with private providers and with local government on issues with the city’s private rental market.
“We understand the concern students have about finding accommodation for the new semester, and we are taking a number of actions to support our students and ensure continuity of learning wherever possible. In some cases, our advice may include pausing studies for this academic year while ensuring students continue to have access to University systems and services. Comprehensive advice is available from students’ advisers of study and the Students’ Representative Council Advice Centre.”