First year students housed miles away in Paisley with others facing "homelessness"
The University of Glasgow has failed to house all first year students, leaving many without guaranteed accommodation a week before freshers' week. Applications for student halls were greater than the University had planned for, following an "unprecedented demand for the forthcoming year", leaving a number of students with no other option than to take flats as far away as Paisley, whilst others, losing out to the "first-come, first-served basis" system, have been left with nothing.
All students had been initially sent an email stating that "the University guarantees accommodation for all first year and international students", however, following the oversubscription to student halls, a number of students did not receive University accommodation, despite applying before the deadline.
Instead, they were sent an email informing them that Glasgow was "pleased to report" the University has partnered with private accommodation provider, City Room Rentals, to provide accommodation for overflow students on a "first-come, first-served basis". The latter email also stated that "under the terms of our Accommodation guarantee, we have an obligation to offer you a place in accommodation", contradicting the earlier email detailing accommodation would be "guaranteed".
Students had two options with City Room Rentals: either Collegelands on Havannah Street near the city centre, for £132 a week, or My PAD on Gilmour Street in Paisley, a 46-minute bus-and-subway journey from the Main Building, for £98 per week. However, several first year students have told The Glasgow Guardian that despite requesting accommodation from City Room Rentals, they have still been unable to secure a space. In an email sent by City Room Rentals to one student, they said that "due to unprecedented demand it is highly unlikely that a place will be offered at Collegelands, as there is a waiting list of 100". The email stated that, at its time of writing, places were still available at My PAD in Paisley, however many students are yet to receive any confirmation of accommodation.
A number of to-be first year students reached out to The Glasgow Guardian to discuss the ongoing situation. Fresher Sophie* told us: "The way the University has handled the situation has left me feeling isolated, and dreading an experience I had always dreamed of. With only one email, the support has been limited. They've just left us to fend for ourselves."
Another first year student, Jack*, told The Glasgow Guardian: "Glasgow promised us accommodation and they failed to meet that guarantee. The University should be held accountable for their mistakes, and compensation for affected students is the least they can do. Upon contacting City Room Rentals, I'm still waiting on an offer after three days of calling and emailing, a week before freshers'. Some of us just have nowhere to go."
Perhaps most affected are international students, who require an address for visa applications. Eatisam, an incoming first year student from Pakistan, told The Glasgow Guardian that "due to this, my visa application has been delayed. My parents are under so much stress: they're sending their son abroad and to this date [we] don't know whether [I] will have a room to live in."
Home students are also feeling the knock-on effects of not having a residence for the start of the semester: many have complained of not being able to complete their student loan applications, enrol to their courses for the academic year, or register with a GP. Another student, Stephen*, expressed concern "about the education itself" following his "chaotic" first experience with University services.
Whilst securing accommodation for all students appears to have presented significant challenges, sorting transport to and from the Paisley halls has presented the University with another challenge. A representative for one of the University's unions told The Glasgow Guardian that the University's Transport Services were "scrambling" for transport to take students from Paisley to Glasgow's West End campus, and had asked for volunteer GUSA drivers to drive unpaid trips.
A post from the "GUSA Drivers 2020-21" Facebook group was shared on Twitter by a University of Glasgow student, stating: "The University has a shortage of accommodation spaces for new students this year. So, they are looking into housing some people in Paisley and, as a part of that, are trying to find ways to offer them transport into the University.
"We've been asked to check whether there are any drivers who would be interested in volunteering ([as] it's not possible to offer paid positions to do this without getting a special license) to drive buses to/from the accommodation to the University. These would be relatively long trips and [are] likely to be needed before 9am and after 5pm on weekdays over term time."
Unite the Union told The Glasgow Guardian: "We do not support the proposal for volunteers to be driving these buses." A Glasgow student, who is also a driver for GUSA, commented on Twitter that: "You do need a D License to drive for hire or reward, so they're correct in that they can't pay [GUSA drivers]. But they can pay for professional drivers rather than relying [on] free student labour."
The Glasgow Guardian spoke to the Glasgow University Student Tenants' Union (GUSTU), who commented: "This decision by the University is, sadly, not surprising. As we have seen from their handling of the pandemic to the mistreatment of the Murano 12, they are once again putting financial gain ahead of the needs, comfort, and safety of student tenants. The University has ignored its own limits on student intakes. Last year, the rent paid to University accommodation increased from £4752 per student to £5764 per student with the University collecting £15 million in revenue. Instead of investing £15 million in building new accommodation for the increase in students, they have struck deals with private accommodation providers to house students 10 miles from campus."
A University spokesperson said: "We understand the concern students have about finding accommodation for the new semester and we appreciate searching for a flat can feel daunting. The University guarantees accommodation for all first year undergraduates and postgraduate students who are new to study in Glasgow, and continues with its planning to achieve this."If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned above, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been updated to include the following information:
Since the time of writing, The Glasgow Guardian has been informed that the University of Glasgow has offered Paisley students an annual Subway pass, a First Bus pass until the 31 January 2022, and £350 for students to use on taxis, "for nights out at the unions on campus or in the city centre".
*For the purposes of anonymity, names have been changed.