Principal Sally Mapstone has announced the formation of a working group to address issues related to student accommodation.
Speaking to The Saint, Professor Mapstone said the group will be made up of student representatives, including the Students’ Association president; Residential Business Services, which handles University accommodation; and representatives from the principal’s office, including the proctor. Other staff or student representatives may be called upon or co-opted by the group depending on the expertise required.
Professor Mapstone explained, “What we’re going to do is to look at our current pricing system, the rationale for it, and then, as it were, how we offset, where we can, our charges.
“We have a bursary system. I think we ought to have a look at that, see if we want to continue with that, because you’ve got a range of options, you know. It’s partly about where you set your rents, [and] it’s partly about what you actually do to help those students who are going to find it hard to reach those rents.
“I think the message I would want to convey is that this is an area I do think needs looking at, and I’ve asked a group of people, who will obviously report […] to me, to look at these issues across the piece, but you have to give us a bit of time to do that.”
The group will examine student accommodation on a general level, as well as specific options open to the University.
According to a University spokesperson, members will work to ensure both existing and planned accommodation “meets a range of student needs and to identify any new requirements” that are not currently accounted for.
The University also hopes to ensure accommodation is affordable “in the broadest sense.” The group will work to make students aware of bursaries they may be eligible for, as well as ensuring these bursaries are sufficient for student need. It also aims to make information pages and application processes easier to navigate.
Overall, the University will look at options to ensure rent levels are not a barrier to study in St Andrews, particularly for “under-represented groups.”
While the working group has no defined timescale, it will be a “short-life working group” and will aim to work quickly to examine the issue of accommodation, bringing forward conclusions and potential recommendations for “prompt action.”
Charlotte Andrew, Students’ Association president, said, “My personal hope is that we secure far-reaching changes to the cost of University accommodation for students in St Andrews. In my view, this should encompass a re-evaluation of the application system and distribution of bursaries, as well as the standard rent levels.
“For example, rather than allocating a bursary of £3,000 for two years, only to be used in University accommodation, I believe students would be better served by a bursary lasting for four years that could also be used in the private rented sector should they so choose.
“I also intend to ensure that there are guarantees for students currently living in, or who would normally qualify to live in Albany Park, to ensure that they continue to be able to afford their living costs.
“The creation of this group is a positive sign that the University recognises student concerns and is willing to re-assess the current system. My intention is to ensure we see drastic changes that address the core issue of affordability for students.”