With rent prices falling all over Dublin but rising on campus, Bridget Fitzsimons asks if UCD can offer value for money.

FOR STUDENTS COMING to UCD from counties beyond the Pale, rent is a primary collegiate expense. Situated as it in the leafier suburbs of south Dublin, rents in Belfield and the surrounding areas have historically been reasonably high. But now, due to the spiralling economic climate and the collapse of the property market, rents across the city have fallen dramatically – a trend that sadly has not been followed on the Belfield campus.

While rents are estimated to have dropped by 17 per cent in Dublin, according to a report conducted by property website Daft.ie, rent on campus has continued to rise by an average of seven per cent each year.

According to the Daft report, South County Dublin has experienced the sharpest fall in rents of any area in Ireland over the past year. Indeed, rental prices in the area have fallen 23 per cent from their peak. In an economic climate like ours, where prices are falling in the surrounding areas of Belfield, why is UCD continuing to raise on-campus rent?

Roebuck 2The three main undergraduate residences on campus – Belgrove, Merville and Roebuck Hall – all charge rents well above the market average. The former two residences cost €4,288 for the academic year, which runs from 31st August to 21st May, with Roebuck Hall charging €5,324 for the same period. Weekly rates work out at €113 and €140 per week respectively.

While both Merville and Belgrove fall within the current national average, the facilities on campus cannot be compared to those provided in private residences. UCD on-campus accommodation is quite basic; Roebuck Hall charges above the market rate, yet apartments do not have an oven, as students are only provided with hobs and a microwave.

Similarly, residents in Merville and Belgrove must share toilets, and some in Belgrove are even required to share bedrooms. If a student can get their own room off-campus a short walk away, why would they pay more to live within the campus walls? While the convenience of living on campus cannot be denied, the standard of the accommodation simply do not justify the constant rise in prices.

“While the convenience of living on campus cannot be denied, the standard of the accommodation simply do not justify the constant rise in prices”

According to Students’ Union Accommodation Officer, Dave Jones, this year’s rise in rent prices for on-campus accommodation is about seven per cent, while South Dublin prices have fallen by 17 per cent. It is no wonder then that residences have had trouble filling spaces this year, with applications extended to second years and others traditionally turned away from campus living. Residences are still not full, something of an anomaly when first year, final year and international students ordinarily snap up the 2,747 on-campus bedrooms.

It seems as if students are finally voting with their feet, and telling UCD that the ridiculous fees are simply not acceptable. If a student can get their own room, far more space than they would on campus, and the peace and quiet that UCD residences simply cannot provide, they will take it. The surrounding areas of Clonskeagh, Ranelagh, Stillorgan, Blackrock and Booterstown offer more personable accommodation only a short walk away.

UCD must offer more value for money if they want campus residences to once again become the most desirable option for students. In times of economic downturn, students are one of the groups hardest hit. With the possibility of third-level fees bearing down on new students, budgeting is now more important than ever. Parents, who are undoubtedly feeling the strain, will make more of an effort to help their children source cheaper accommodation instead of just sending them to on-campus accommodation, which seems like an easier option. Individuals are becoming more proactive in saving money, and UCD must budget for this.

In the long run, there is more money to be made by offering smaller rents and having on campus residences full, than having expensive rent and be desperate for applicants.
It is up to students to demand better value and better services, and this is what they seem to be doing this year. UCD accommodation should be based on value for money and provision of good services, instead of an opportunity to rip students off.

Students simply do not have the money to throw away on overpriced accommodation anymore. UCD will not fill these spaces by appealing to other students, as few can afford the current rates.

UCD must realise that it is surrounded by affordable and well-serviced accommodation, and strive to provide competitive encouraging students to live there for the year. Until this happens, the UCD halls of residence will remain unfilled.