Sanam Arora told The PIE News that high demand around housing is currently an emerging issue but could become a much more serious problem over the coming weeks.
“It’s certainly one of the top issues students are facing at the moment… I think it’s an emerging problem and it could well become a very significant one”
There have been a number of reports this month of UK universities having to house students in locations away from their campuses to cope with demand. The University of Bristol has had to place 100 students in Bath and The University of York will place students in Hull.
“The top most concern we are observing amongst Indian students coming over to the UK to study is finding good accommodation. Anecdotally I can tell you we are observing that compared to previous years, this issue has certainly increased,” Arora told The PIE.
Arora said that NISAU has partnered with a university accommodation provider in order to address a lot of the issues students are facing.
“Clearly, the numbers of Indian international students coming to the UK has significantly increased and I’m not sure if the supply of accommodation has kept up with that.
“While it is an issue, I think we can find a solution if the various stakeholders work collectively together. It’s certainly one of the top issues students are facing at the moment… I think it’s an emerging problem and it could well become a very significant one.”
“Universities in particular have really got to rise to the occasion in terms of their duty of care”
One issue highlighted by Arora is that students are having to find two sets of accommodation as private landlords aren’t necessarily allowing them to stay in their rooms to quarantine.
“This may make scientific sense, of course, but from a hassle to the student point of view, it’s not particularly pleasant. So students are also facing that sort of split accommodation requirement as well.”
NISAU is now hoping that universities will “rise to the occasion” and institute a process to help students who are not in university accommodation.
“Universities are local hubs… they need to provide basic support that would stop students from scrambling around internet sites, potentially getting into concerns of safety and security because they’re sitting thousands of miles away trying to look on the internet, to find a place to live,” said Arora.
“Universities in particular have really got to rise to the occasion in terms of their duty of care and realise that it goes beyond students paying to stay in their halls,” she added.
Nick Hillman, director of higher education think tank HEPI, told The PIE that securing accommodation can be a different experience for international students relative to home students saying they are less likely to live in shared student houses and more likely to live in purpose-built student accommodation.
“The current picture is very different in different cities. So, for example, there is a shortage of beds in Bristol but not in Leicester. Rents partly reflect supply and demand issues,” he said.
“My advice would be to start searching for accommodation as soon as you know you need it, to speak to the university accommodation office and to look at the availability of private purpose-built student accommodation.”
Hillman suggested that most students will get appropriate accommodation but in the most in-demand places, the rents will be higher and the travel distances will be longer.
“Choosing a study destination in another country is a huge decision for international students and one we take very seriously”
The PIE reached out to both the University of York and the University of Bristol to ask whether international students would be likely to face any issues with finding accommodation.
“We have been able to offer every single student who applied for accommodation, including those travelling from overseas, a place in halls of residences,” a spokesperson for the University of Bristol told The PIE.
“We do not anticipate any issues for international students. If anyone did not apply for accommodation with the university, we are operating a waiting list and are still offering accommodation to students on this list.
“The waiting list will remain open for the coming weeks. We encourage anyone who still has concerns to contact us directly,” they added.
Rachel MacSween director of international recruitment at The University of York told The PIE that the university is working closely with all incoming students to ensure their requirements are met, factoring in their transit route and any self-isolation periods.
“A small number of international students are within the groups who will be housed temporarily in Hull. We know how resilient our international students are though and many have proactively got together and sought private options in and around York,” she said.
“Choosing a study destination in another country is a huge decision for international students and one we take very seriously.”
MacSween said that the demand for places at York this year has increased significantly and that staff are doing “everything they can to make sure student concerns are allayed, including allowing longer periods of study online for some courses”.
“We have new on-campus accommodation blocks opening this calendar year and we’ll be working to move students back onto campus as soon as they become available,” she added.
Universities UK told The PIE that there have been “record numbers” of people looking to boost their careers by choosing to go to university this year and universities have needed to show “great flexibility” in their support for applicants.
“The provision of accommodation and any measures around this will vary by institution, however, where a student does not get their choice of accommodation or is struggling, universities are on hand to provide guidance, and students who are concerned should speak to student support teams,” a spokesperson told The PIE.