THE cost of student digs in Scotland has almost doubled over the past decade, according to new research.
The average weekly rent is now £115 in university-owned accommodation, with students finding cheaper deals with private landlords in some areas.
The accommodation costs survey reveals that the average weekly rent has increased by 90 per cent in a decade, from £58.78 in 2001/02 to £115.49 in 2012/13.
Costs vary at university halls across the country, from £2,700 to £3,300 a year in Stirling, up to £4,700 to £5,300 in St Andrews, the poll finds.
Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said: “Student rents in Scotland have sky-rocketed over the past decade, leaving fewer affordable accommodation options for students from lower and middle-income backgrounds.
“It is these students who are really feeling the pinch.
“Universities have a responsibility to support their students, but that responsibility does not begin and end at the doors of the lecture hall. Universities certainly need to do more to widen access to those from the most deprived communities, but they need to ensure students can afford to stay in university as well.
“We need Scottish universities to properly plan accommodation supply and take a hard look at capping rent increases in university-owned accommodation, to ensure students are not priced out of living in halls.”
Overall, the average rent across all university accommodation, including privately rented homes, has increased by 19 per cent in the three years since the previous survey.
In 2009/10, average weekly costs stood at £102. By 2012/13 they had reached £121 a week, or £5,084 a year.
Private accommodation is still generally more expensive than student digs but in some areas such as St Andrews and Edinburgh, it is proving a cheaper alternative.
UK-wide there has been a “dramatic swing” to private accommodation in recent years. It now forms 39 per cent of the market, up from 22 per cent three years ago.
Martin Blakey, chief executive of Unipol Student Homes, which carried out the survey with the NUS, said: “Costs of private sector accommodation and educationally provided accommodation have moved much closer together over the last three years.
“It is important for universities and colleges to acknowledge the vital role they have to play in enhancing access and the student experience by providing distinctive and affordable accommodation for their students within a not-for-profit framework.”
In the longer term it is hoped prices could fall as student numbers contract and more accommodation becomes available, leading to competition between landlords.
Across the UK, London remains the area with the most expensive rents for students, averaging £157 per week, up 26 per cent from £125 in 2009-10.
The east of England has the second highest overall average weekly rent at £134.
The cheapest region to study remains Northern Ireland at £83.
The accommodation costs survey has been undertaken by the National Union of Students (NUS).
NUS carried out the work in collaboration with Unipol Student Homes.