A Higher Education Authority (HEA) report on student accommodation has found that there is currently an unmet demand of about 25,000 on-campus bed spaces for students in Ireland.
The report entitled “Student Accommodation: Demand & Supply” was released yesterday by Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, following criticism of her perceived inaction on the accommodation crisis throughout August.
The report also indicated that the current trend of the demand for student accommodation outstripping the supply is estimated to continue until 2024.
Stewart Roche of the HEA, who was involved in the compilation of the report, says that the accommodation crisis may be preventing students from progressing to third level education, but that this hasn’t been investigated yet. “Anecdotally I’m hearing that with the increase in student numbers there is some impact, but we haven’t quantified that yet. But with an increase in student numbers and the fact that you’re going to have a continuing problem unless action is taken, then it could impact.”
The key points highlighted by the report as summarized by Roche were accessing sources of finance for campus accommodation, the issue of the lack of land available for development and the recommendation of the introduction of tax measures to incentivise the construction.
The report mentions that an increase in the numbers of international students could be a potential option for the Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) to increase their income stream to fund additional accommodation. However, Roche acknowledges the problems that this causes for domestic students in the short-term, as international students tend to get priority for on-campus accommodation. Currently 1,357 of the 2,814 campus spaces available in UCD are allocated to non-EU International students. “There is a difficulty between the strategy to promote an increase in international student numbers and the availability of student accommodation,” says Roche. “The actual apportionment of bed spaces is a matter for each HEI, it would be difficult for the HEA to comment on that. But certainly consideration should be given to domestic students as well as international and EU students.”
The report also makes particular mention of accommodation for students with disabilities, for whom a similar problem exists in that the supply does not meet the demand for accommodation. One of the recommendations by the report was that HEIs should consider allocating up to 10% of new bed spaces for students with disabilities to allow for likely increased demand by students with disabilities. UCD’s website suggests that a “small number” of rooms are reserved for HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) students, but that there are not enough rooms for all applicants through HEAR.
Roche differentiates between ameliorating the short-term issue of students who are looking for campus accommodation this year and the long-term shortage of accommodation, which has been forecasted to continue for the years to come. “I think the issue of the rent-a-room relief is a good one, but that will only ease the problem. The main thing is to get more on-campus student accommodation built.”
Roche also acknowledges that compiling reports such as “Student Accommodation: Demand & Supply” is only half the battle. “You need to make sure that what is planned happens, but you also need to do more than what is planned. You need to get extra space built.”
UCD plans to increase prices for on-campus accommodation by over 40% over the next three years as a measure to fund the development of new campus accommodation. The controversial price increase comes with restricted access to campus accommodation, which has been limited to first year and international students.