Student digs charges have gone up by almost a fifth


By Christine Lavelle

ACCOMMODATION at Scotland’s universities is more expensive than it has ever been – soaring past the £200 a week mark.

The most expensive student digs are at Edinburgh University, which has seven premium halls of residence rooms available, costing £216 per week.

St Andrews University in Fife, which houses 4,000 students a year, comes in second, where some en suite, catered rooms are costing £188, and even self catered rooms cost a massive £135 per week of term.

This is almost twice the amount charged at the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley, which boasts the cheapest halls in Scotland.

A survey by the National Union of Students Scotland (NUS) reveals an 18 per cent increase in charges over the past three years.

This matches the prices charged by Unite, a private company which has moved to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and supply facilities like widescreen TVs.

For the same value, students could rent a privately owned two-bedroom flat in Edinburgh’s New Town, or a three-bedroom in other parts of the capital.

University rectors and student leaders have described the jump in charges as “appalling” and believe it could lead to applicants being put off in the current financial climate.

Broadcaster Iain McWhirter, the rector of Edinburgh University, said: “I’ve been approached repeatedly by students who are really appalled by the cost of accommodation.

“Edinburgh University insists its accommodation is no more expensive than comparable universities in England but there is doubt that it could become a major disincentive to students.”

A recent survey found a big difference in prices of student halls across the country.

Edinburgh’s seven exclusive rooms come with two meals a day and all bills covered, as well as en suite bathrooms.

The 6,500 other rooms offered by the university range from £170 to £95 for standard catered rooms, and shared self-catered rooms respectively.

Glasgow University offers its catered rooms for £135, a charge which drops to £105 for self catered.

Glasgow Caledonian University’s most expensive city-centre rooms cost just £87, while Strathclyde’s range from £77 to £102.

Aberdeen University also varies on price, depending on the facilities required – with students paying anything from £65 for self catering, to £149 for a room with meals provided and an en suite bathroom.

Liam Burns, president of NUS Scotland, said: “Our research shows average rents have increased by nearly a fifth in Scotland over the last three years, while the financial help students get has stayed near enough static.

“This can only put greater financial pressure on students and risk hardship, and ultimately drop out.”

Over 50 per cent of students pay more than £90 a week – and over a quarter pay £120.

Universities have been upgrading their student accommodation because they can make extra funds by renting them out to tourists during long holiday periods.

A spokeswoman from Edinburgh Univeristy defended their higher cost rooms and said the majority are much cheaper.

She said: “Our accommodation for students starts at £54 a week for shared self catering accommodation and our average weekly tariffs for students are around £170 for catered and around £95 for self catered accommodation.

“The difference in prices simply reflects variations in terms of age and location of building, style and size of room, facilities within each building and whether the room is en suite.

“Those rooms at the higher end of the tariff scale are extremely popular but the university recognises the need for, and indeed successfully provides, a significant range of lower cost options.”

A spokesman for St Andrews Univeristy said: “It is widely accepted that St Andrews is a comparatively expensive place to build and maintain property and our residences are run to break even on student rents, not to make profit from this revenue.”