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Another profit-making racket
THE NATIONAL Union of Students' (NUS) recent survey of student accommodation costs shows that roughly a quarter of students live in university halls or purpose-built accommodation from corporate providers. Halls traditionally helped first-year students in particular leave home and set up at university.
The report says more universities are entering into partnership arrangements with private providers to provide student accommodation, rather than supplying it directly themselves. The NUS estimates that by 2010 private providers and PFI schemes will account for over 50% of halls of residence.
This shift has led to the average rent for a room going up by 23% since 2003/04 - well above the increase in the retail price index and more than three times the increase in student loans over the same period.
There is also a widespread use of booking fees, averaging £115 per application, for students applying for a room in halls. The NUS estimates that £8 million is charged to students via booking fees.
These increased charges go hand-in-hand with a growth in 'luxury' en-suite accommodation and studio flats, mainly provided by private companies. The headline rent levels often look similar to those charged by educational establishments, but add-on charges for services such as broadband internet, energy costs and gym membership, take the overall charges significantly above the rent levels charged by universities.
Average private-provider rents are 18% more expensive than those charged by educational institutions. Some private providers surveyed made it clear that they are catering for the top end of the market and have no desire to provide more affordable, shared accommodation. This increases 'choice' at the top end of the market but by reducing choice at the bottom end.
Many students who apply for places in halls of residence are living away from home for the first time, are on a limited budget and face increasing debts.
There is evidence that many poorer students decide not to go to university because of the burden of tuition fees.
Of those who go to university, many remain living at home as they would otherwise be forced to pay high accommodation costs. Overall, about a fifth of students live with their parents, but amongst working-class students the figure increases to about a third.
The NUS points to a trend for poorer students to choose courses and universities based on their ability to commute from home, rather than on the course itself, skewing the skills and qualifications working-class students can acquire.
There is an obvious need for a range of accommodation, not just luxury flats for students from wealthy homes.
Privatised student halls will not provide for those on lower incomes. Whether for students or anyone else, the interests of private housing providers lie in maximising their profits. Instead of lining the pockets of a few, we need decent housing with affordable rents for all.
- No more rent rises
- No more fees
- No more debt
- Decent housing with affordable rents
- End the student housing crisis.
In The Socialist 22 February 2007:
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