Fifth of foreign students face homelessness - report

time:2023-06-09 05:05:58source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center4

More than a fifth of international students in Scotland have experienced homelessness during their studies, a survey has found.

The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland report stated international students are almost twice as likely to be homeless than home students.

The organisation has called for a student housing guarantee.

The Scottish government said it is working to improve accessibility in the student accommodation sector.

Universities Scotland said that overall, students had been squeezed out of the private rented sector.

In October the BBC heard from students who had begged letting agents to accept their bids on flats amid a major accommodation crisis.

Some students used hostels and slept on common room floors, while others faced long commutes.

A Universities Scotland spokesperson said: "It is not acceptable for any student to be without secure and appropriate housing.

"Universities' relationship with their international students starts many months before they arrive in country, and we'd strongly encourage students to get in touch with their institution to see what advice, support and guidance is available when it comes to accommodation.

"Many institutions do offer a guarantor scheme for their students to address some of the issues highlighted in the NUS report."

The NUS data, compiled from 1,281 international students, found that about one in five (21%) experienced homelessness after starting their studies, compared to 12% of home students.

The survey highlighted that international students struggle more than home students to obtain housing, as many do not have a UK-based guarantor, which is required by most landlords to secure a tenancy.

The study also found that 42% of international students have gone without heating, 49% had skipped a meal and 10% had used foodbanks.

The NUS is calling for universities to ensure that international students always have access to housing by introducing a student housing guarantee.

It also urged universities to widen criteria for their hardship funds as international students are often excluded.

NUS Scotland president, Ellie Gomersall, said the rates of homelessness among international students were unacceptable.

She called for ministers to use devolved powers to cap fees for international students.

"Scotland prides itself on having a world-class education system, but this is being undermined by the way we treat those coming to learn from other countries," the union president said.

"International students are expected to pay extortionate fees but have no support once they arrive in Scotland, facing homelessness and skipping meals just to get by."

Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo, president of Aberdeen University Students' Association and a recently graduated international-EU student, said there is a misconception that international students are wealthy.

"The cost-of-living crisis is affecting international students disproportionately in the current economy as visa fees, exchange rates, and budgeting has become increasingly more difficult," she said.

"International students are less likely to come forward when they are struggling because they are worried about how being homeless may affect their visa.

"They have very few opportunities with limited working hours and no access to public funds."

Higher Education Minister Graeme Dey said the report raised significant issues which universities would take seriously.

He said: "Although the Scottish government has no direct role in provision of student residential accommodation, we are determined to improve accessibility, affordability and standards in the purpose built student accommodation sector and are carrying out a review of that provision right now.

"At the same time, we are developing proposals for improving privately-rented accommodation more generally which we set out in our draft new deal for tenants.

"Both pieces of work will inform a Student Accommodation Strategy for Scotland for the benefit of all students studying in Scotland."

Related content
Recommended content