In a disquieting development, it has come to light that the dearth of housing for university students is poised to deteriorate further in numerous urban centers across the United Kingdom. A recent report in The Independent highlights the dire predictions made by student housing charity, Unipol, which portends that an alarming number of students will grapple with the unenviable prospect of securing affordable lodgings this academic year. In some dire instances, the housing supply is anticipated to “simply dry up.”
This alarming revelation surfaces on the precipice of a new academic year, as school leavers across the UK are gearing up to embark on their university journeys in September after the culmination of the summer examination season.
Martin Blakey, the Chief Executive Officer of Unipol, expounded on this crisis in a poignant article authored for the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) think tank. Blakey underscored that the principal catalyst propelling this escalating demand for accommodations is the burgeoning influx of international students, predominantly comprising both undergraduates and postgraduates, with an emphatic tilt towards the latter category, particularly those enrolled in one-year taught courses.
Emanating from Blakey’s erudition, the annals reveal that while a commendable 29,048 new student abodes were introduced throughout the United Kingdom in the year 2020, this number has regrettably dwindled to a mere 13,543 for the current year. It’s worth noting that a fraction of this figure pertains to the resurrection of older structures into serviceable accommodations.
Of paramount significance is the staggering surge in the number of international students, witnessing a meteoric rise of approximately 276,110 between the years 2019 and 2022, reflecting an awe-inspiring 72 percent escalation over this span. Notably, a commanding 63 percent of this upswing pertains to the esteemed cohort of taught postgraduates, unequivocally signaling their critical accommodation requisites.
Blakey’s incisive commentary further discerns distinctive patterns in the surge of international scholars. While students hailing from China continue to contribute to the upward trajectory, their ascent is marked by a deliberate deceleration and an evolving disposition towards high-tariff universities. In stark contrast, the postgraduate taught segment delineates a fascinating narrative of substantial growth emanating from students of Indian and Nigerian provenance, with a concentrated presence in institutions of lower- and middle-tariff classifications, particularly those established post-1992.
The ramifications of this acute accommodation scarcity are expected to reverberate through prominent university cities, encompassing Brighton, Bristol, Durham, Glasgow, Manchester, York, Bath, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Lincoln, and Salford.
Over the years, universities have grappled with the daunting challenge of furnishing students with proximate accommodations. In certain exigent situations, they have been compelled to extend housing options to neighboring municipalities due to the dearth of on-campus dwellings, as documented by the BBC.
Nick Hillman, the Director of Hepi, elucidates, “It is imperative to fathom that neither students nor accommodation providers bear culpability for the prevailing deficits. The predicaments are inexorably tied to elevated interest rates, hampering the feasibility of constructing new accommodations, unwarranted regulatory strictures – prominently exemplified in Scotland in recent times, and a concomitant deflation in students’ real incomes, rendering it increasingly challenging for them to meet rental obligations.”
This comprehensive elucidation endeavors to encapsulate the profound gravity of the burgeoning housing crisis confronting university scholars across the United Kingdom, a crisis that accentuates the multifaceted challenges wrought by the inexorable tide of globalization on academic ecosystems.