Students see rent for halls rocket over 10 years

Steve Lumley·17 December 2021·5 min read
Students see rent for halls rocket over 10 years

Students in the UK have seen their rents for halls of residence rocketing by 60% over the past 10 years, a survey reveals.

According to the National Union of Students (NUS), the average rent for university accommodation is £7,347 a year.

That's more than a student's typical maintenance loan which means that more students are being forced to work part-time while studying.

They are also seeking financial help from family to make ends meet or are living from home since their average maintenance loan - which is aimed at covering a student's living expenses - is £6,900.

Student halls of residence beds

The survey looked at 50,000 student halls of residence beds and found that rents are creeping up steadily and are now 4.4% higher than they were last year.

The rents are also 16% higher than they were before the pandemic.

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, the vice-president for higher education at the NUS, said: "Student accommodation affordability affects a student's educational experience and has an impact on widening and accessing participation.

"It is disgraceful that many young people are being priced out, either unable or deterred from applying to university, or their options limit where they can afford to live."

Student room rents are rising faster than inflation

The NUS report also highlights that student room rents are rising faster than inflation and that students face a growing issue of finding affordable rooms.

The report adds that private student halls are now focussed on offering international students luxury studio apartments, rather than delivering cheaper accommodation alternatives.

Of the cities analysed for the report, London is particularly unaffordable for students where the average rent for purpose-built student accommodation in the capital is £10,857 - that is 61% higher than the UK's average rent.

And should the student be able to access the maximum amount for their maintenance loan, the rent will account for 88% of it.

The report also states that beds offered by private operators are 24% dearer than university-provided beds, and that operators are pricing their offers on what their competitors also charge rather than meeting what a student can afford.

University-provided private halls

The NUS says, for example, that the rent on a self-catered room in university-provided private halls will cost £5,157 on average, while private housing that has been contracted by a university costs £5,985, but for private halls, the average rent is £7,264.

Now, the NUS says universities must keep a tight rein on the rents being charged by the providers of private halls and they must offer cheaper rooms since there has been a decline in affordable student accommodation.

This also hurts disadvantaged students who are supported with housing bursaries.

University accommodation unchanged since the 1970’s

One Manchester student who spoke to the Daily Express explained that his accommodation block had been unchanged since the 1970s and that the university had been planning to redevelop or demolish it.

He said student tenants were plagued with repeated water leaks and flooding, as well as rat infestations.

However, for the same rent he paid for university-provided halls, he now shares a house with three bathrooms, a kitchen and garden and his bedroom is three times the size of that he lived in while in halls.

He complained that since the university has a monopoly on first-year accommodation, they use this position to 'charge a student an extortionate rent' for providing 'appalling accommodation'.

How much students are paying for their accommodation

Ms Gyebi-Ababio said that the private sector and the Government must now rethink how much students are paying for their accommodation.

She added: "Maintenance grants must be re-introduced, and the housing sector and universities must go beyond ensuring that affordability meets the threshold set down by Poverty Commission research."

The NUS report also recommends that universities employ specialist accommodation staff to link up with private providers to help find rooms for students.

They also say that universities must also do more to work with private providers and that while the private sector is housing students, the university has a duty of care for the student’s welfare.

The university must also have in place student support and that since the operation and ownership of most of the PBSA sector in the UK is in private hands, universities must do more to offer better social provision and provide specialist services for disabled students, plus offer mental-health awareness services for all student tenants.