Jar filled with money, tipped over / Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

National Student Accommodation Survey finds £1 billion spent on unused accommodation

Nearly £1 billion has been spent by students on unused university accommodation so far in the 2020/21 academic year. 

The findings are from the National Student Accommodation Survey 2021. The UK-wide survey polled 1,355 university students between 20 January and 8 February. 

The average amount spent on rooms students have not had full access to this year is estimated to stand at £1,621. The total amount is estimated to be £933,270,890 so far this year, nearly £1 billion.

Many universities have provided refunds for on-campus accommodation. The University of Warwick offered a rent waiver for the first half of term and have now offered an extension to this waiver. Only 6% of students in accommodation owned by private landlords have managed to get a refund according to the survey.

32% of students were offered a discount on their accommodation. Two-thirds of students surveyed in university-owned accommodation had asked for a refund, compared to less than one in five with private landlords.

39% of students live in accommodation owned by private landlords, with 34% in university accommodation, 15% in private halls, and 10% living with parents.

The average rent for students was found to be £146 per week (pw). The average for private landlords is £148pw, university accommodation £145pw, private halls £144pw, and for students living at home the average rent was £30pw.

The average amount spent on rooms students have not had full access to this year is estimated to stand at £1,621. The total amount is estimated to be £933,270,890 so far this year, nearly £1 billion

Average weekly rent varies from £71 in Northern Ireland to £152pw in London. The West Midlands has an average of £119pw.

The survey found that for the average student, 73% of their maintenance loan goes on rent, with some students finding that their loan does not cover all their rent. Half of students reportedly struggle to pay rent with one in ten saying that it was a “constant struggle”.

One student in private halls said: “Fear of not being able to afford living costs e.g. food, travel, academic resources as Maintenance Loan doesn’t cover both rent and living costs and I receive no [help] from family.”

On average parents contribute £44pw to rent, coming to as much as £2,288 per year.

The survey found that 52% of students were in the same living situations as they had originally planned, but 35% of students surveyed were at their family home after moving home for Christmas.

The survey also found that 43% of students have spent three months or less in their term-time accommodation, compared to 42% who had been able to spend the entire time in their term-time properties.

The survey found that had students known what would happen this year, over two in five would have chosen their term-time accommodation differently.

£1 billion is a huge price for students to pay and the total will keep going up, making it clear once again that students are among the worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic

– Jack Butler

One in three students do not read their accommodation contract and, for one in ten students, no-one in their house had read their contracts before signing. One in three students expressed that they plan to ask for a break clause in their contract next year which would allow them to end their tenancy early if required.

Half of the surveyed students feel that their accommodation is poor value for money. One student in accommodation owned by a private landlord said: “£6,000 is a lot of money – so knowing that I’ve paid it for a service I’m not using is stressful.”

Jack Butler, Save the Student’s money expert, said: “£1 billion is a huge price for students to pay and the total will keep going up, making it clear once again that students are among the worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Time and time again the government has promised to look at the poor situation students are in but we’re yet to see any effective action.”

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, National Union of Students Vice-President for Higher Education, said: “Students have been consistently exploited and ignored during this pandemic. We are seen as cash cows, with many stuck paying extortionate rents for properties they either cannot use or cannot afford.

“This survey makes clear that the £50million in hardship funding is a drop in the ocean compared to the eye-watering costs that students are facing.”

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