Catherine Salmond: It is not ok for Scotland’s students to be facing a housing crisis

Today we tell the stories of St Andrews University students who have no idea where they are going to be living come the start of term.There is a housing shortage in the famous seaside town and while university bosses stress all undergraduate first year students are guaranteed an offer of accommodation, they recognise the housing market for other stage groups is "highly pressured".

Some may get a room in a student housing facility in Dundee, meaning a lengthy round trip to St Andrews, while others have parents who are considering buying properties to ensure the smooth continuation of their child's studies.

Unfortunately, some are considering pulling their kids out for a year, angry about what they consider a lack of transparency about the housing shortage in the Fife town.

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Universities need to look after their students. Picture: Getty ImagesUniversities need to look after their students. Picture: Getty Images
Universities need to look after their students. Picture: Getty Images

I was lucky enough to go to university. To me it was never considered a right, rather something I felt I earned, and I never took it for granted.

I was also lucky to have financial backing from my parents, which without, would have most likely seen me unable to go.

But my parents were never in a position where they could have bought me a flat in the West End of Glasgow to ensure I had somewhere to live.

Instead, having lived in university owned halls of residence in my first year, I lived with friends I made there in a flat for the next three years. They were, quite simply, some of the very best years of my life and our friendships have been cherished ever since.

I wonder how different my life would have been without that?

Our flat was our home for those years and we looked after each other like family.

Student life is carefree in many respects - we operated in what many could have viewed as a privileged bubble, spending our spare money on copious amounts of cheap booze.

But we also worked hard to try to make something of ourselves; to repay our parents for the support and faith they had put in us and our education.

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Times were not always easy for many friends I knew, and us being together - in shared, stable accommodation - proved vital.

I witnessed cases of anorexia, a mental breakdown, depression. What would have happened to these young students in their early 20s if they had not had stability? Flatmates they knew and trusted? Accommodation they could relax in when times were strained?

We developed good relationships with each other's parents. They were, on occasion, contacted if one of us was worried about their child's health.

Universities need to ensure students they are accepting – and taking money from – are looked after under their watch. This is not just about having a roof over their heads.

Catherine Salmond is editor of Scotland on Sunday



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