Despite worries about accommodation amongst students in St Andrews, the University has revealed that there are 155 vacant beds in University halls of residence. Across the private sector, in Ayton House and East Shore halls of residences, there are a further 207 beds available.
Of the 169 beds which are occupied in these private halls, 50 of those in Ayton House are currently home to pupils from St Leonards school, whose own dormitories are currently under redevelopment.
Pat Mathewson, President of the Students’ Association, warned Ayton House that their rents were too high to attract students earlier this year.
In the light of these statistics, he said: “The vacancies in private accommodation are the product of two factors, price point and late advertising. A vacant room is of no use to students if it is unaffordable, an issue on which the Students’ Association has been particularly vocal. Likewise, a room substantially advertised after the accommodation rush is of no use to students, such was the case particularly with the East Shore site, completed just before term time began.
“Our housing challenges are about more than empty beds, they are about the quality and price of student homes.”
When asked to explain the high number of vacancies in University halls, Niall Scott, director of corporate communications, told The Saint: “It is a very broad mix of factors – some residents have found private sector accommodation and moved out, some deferred entry for a year, some are on leave of absence, some have transferred to other universities and on the whole we had a smaller entrant class this year than in previous years, at the same time as the redeveloped Fife Park was reopened.”
The redeveloped Fife Park apartments opened for the first time at the start of this semester, providing an additional 248 beds compared to the last academic year. Mr Scott emphasised that these figures across both University and private residences show there is a sufficiency of accommodation in town, but “whether there is a sufficient variety to cater for mixed needs and different price points is entirely another question.”
“Care should be taken before drawing superficial conclusions from these figures,” Mr Mathewson added.
“University accommodation is currently above 96 per cent occupancy, with the overwhelming majority of those vacancies due to personal matters such a deferrals, leaves of absence and withdrawals from a student’s course.”
Mr Stuart agreed with this sentiment, saying “it would be dangerous to over simplify an interpretation of these statistics.”
He continued: “We are very much aware of the pressures students can face in trying to find suitable accommodation and in some cases dealing with private landlords offering substandard properties at relatively high prices. We remain committed to providing more new university managed accommodation in St Andrews to lessen pressure on our students and to take some of the heat out of the accommodation market in central St Andrews.”
Any student wishing to take up one of the empty beds in University halls for next semester is still able to do so.
Both Ayton House and East Shore refused to comment on this matter when approached by The Saint, as did St Leonards school.