Back in June the Government secured €75m of financing from the Council of Europe Bank (COEB) for purpose-built student accommodation.
It was a welcomed announcement as, with the housing crisis, Ireland could do with reducing the number of students having to rely on the private sector for accommodation.
Speaking about the funding at the time Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD said: “Increasing the supply of student accommodation is the primary aim of my department’s Student Accommodation Strategy, and securing this funding brings us one step closer to achieving our target of 21,000 additional student bed spaces by 2024.
“We will continue to work across Government to increase supply of accommodation for students and to address the affordability barrier.”
Too early to celebrate
While University College Dublin students’ union (UCDSU) welcomes the announcement, it believe it’s too early to celebrate, given the cost of accommodation on the campus is beyond the means of many of the students who wish to attend the college.
“UCD has completely failed to build affordable accommodation on campus,” says president of UCDSU Ruairí Power. “The average student from a middle-income or low-income background – and especially students from outside of Dublin – have been locked out of studying at UCD.
Charging over €14,000 for a nine-month stay is extortionate
“We need to start having an honest conversation about this. Accommodation prices have risen by 118% in UCD in the past 10 years. Students and their families have not seen an increase on this level to their wages – how are they expected to keep up with these soaring costs?,” Ruairí says.
“Charging over €14,000 for a nine-month stay is extortionate, with the cheapest accommodation on campus coming in at a staggering €8,000.
“Last year when UCD announced annual increases of 4% in campus rents, students rightly reacted with protests and demonstrations. If UCD refuses to listen to students and families who are being impacted by discriminatory pricing plans, we need the Government to take action and set stringent design criteria for purpose-built student accommodation on campuses,” he says.
There have been several protests by students who just want basic affordable student accommodation to be offered on campus and the students’ Union are active in their fight to see these changes implemented and have been lobbying for Government intervention.
Most students want affordable, safe and a relatively decent standard of accommodation, but they don’t need luxury accommodation
“UCD is being run as a business,” Ruairí continues. “It is high time that the Government stands up and intervenes for students who are currently being locked out of education purely because they cannot afford to line the pockets of a public institution.
“Most students want affordable, safe and a relatively decent standard of accommodation, but they don’t need luxury accommodation,” he says. “They want a place to sleep and to have a desk to do some study.”
“UCD’s current strategy is really to cater for those wealthier, more affluent students – we don’t need double beds and en suites for every single block of accommodation, that’s not what every student needs,” he adds.
Strict parameters needed
Molly Greenough is the Welfare Officer at UCDSU, a position she took up only a month ago. Since starting her post, the majority of her correspondence with students has been over the lack of accommodation options for them between campus and the private sector.
“We really welcome that funding, and hopefully it has the potential to be transformative, but we really are calling on the Government to make sure that the funding is used wisely, and that there are strict parameters placed on what types of accommodation universities build to stop more luxury, entirely unaffordable accommodation from being built,” she says.
I wouldn’t even consider it a national university at this point
Molly believes UCD is targeting the wealth of international students more and more to help make up for the lack of higher education funding from Government.
“As a result, so many students from rural areas are being left behind – I wouldn’t even consider it a national university at this point. I don’t think anyone should be forgotten or locked out of higher education.”
“Dublin 4 – which Daft.ie recently said is the most expensive area to live in Ireland – if you’re able to find cheaper accommodation in Donnybrook than on your own campus, that’s highly problematic and I don’t understand why they don’t see it as more of a problem,” says Molly.
When Irish Country Living asked for a statement, a UCD spokesperson sent the following reply.
“There is a range of on-campus accommodation available for students. There is no requirement for students to take on an annual contract and all utilities and insurance are included in the cost.
“The costs of on-campus accommodation start at €203.09 weekly for the Belgrove Residences. The full range of available on-campus accommodation and the costs are available on the campus residences website.