In 2006, the most expensive halls at Stirling University cost just £64 a week.
Construction began in 2012 of new accommodation buildings on campus, starting with Willow Court. At the time of construction, Willow was seen as premium accommodation – a tier above the rest of the halls that Stirling University has to offer. With a premium price tag of almost £5000 a year to match.
Today, the price of the university’s new accommodation buildings is £141 a week.
However, the availability of affordable accommodation on campus is becoming more and more scarce.
AKD halls were taken down in 2014 to make way for the new expenditures. And last year, the university demolished Geddes Court: the cheapest, and poorest, halls that Stirling had to offer. In the same year, construction finished on the university’s newest addition Juniper Court.
Juniper and Beech Court have been constructed in the past two years, both costing £5358 a year – the equivalent of roughly 93% of a maximum SAAS loan.
At the same time as these new halls were constructed, no affordable replacement for students was made available – as rent increases look to surpass student loans.
The cheapest halls currently available to students are Muirhead and Donnelly at £3400 a year. A significant increase from 10 years ago, when the cheapest accommodation, John Forty’s Court, cost £2204 a year.
Student rent will be frozen for the upcoming academic year as a result of the work of former Union President Andrew Kinnell, whose Living Rent Campaign saw 2000 students sign a petition pressuring the university to provide students with fair accommodation prices.
Kinnell reached a deal with the university to freeze the costs of most accommodation for the next academic year, but will still increase the cost of the newer buildings (Beech, Juniper and Willow Court) by 2.5% – which will bring the maximum cost of rent in Stirling University halls to £5350.
“I think I managed to get a good deal,” Kinnell told Brig. “The Campaign for Fair Rent was one of the most engaging campaigns run by a union president in some years at Stirling.”
“In recent years, the amount of affordable accommodation has decreased while the number of more expensive residences has increased. That being said, the quality of accommodation has improved dramatically. I stayed in Geddes Court in first year and to be honest it was, as much as did enjoy my time there, really quite grim.
“So making sure we have good quality accommodation is important, we just need to ensure there is a range of options with plenty of affordable choices so we can maintain and build on our excellent accessibility record.”
Kinnell also made note that the rent deal reached with the University will amount to £250,000 of savings for students, and that he feels the issue of accommodation prices is linked to “the continued marketization of higher education at both Scottish and UK-wide level”.
A spokesperson for Stirling University also spoke to Brig recently regarding these rising costs: “A Rent Review Group, which comprises representatives from across the University and the Students’ Union, and which is chaired by a lay member of Court, reviews rent levels each year in line with operating and financing costs.
“A key factor in this review process is a comprehensive analysis of rents being charged by other Scottish universities, campus-based universities across the UK and private sector landlords in the local area.
“Changes in accommodation costs between 2006 and 2016 vary across different types of student accommodation and represent a very slight increase in real terms, with more than 80 per cent of existing rooms rising by less than £20 a week over the past ten years.
“During this time significant investment has been made in the provision of new accommodation to meet the needs of today’s students.”
They also made note of a new ‘rent review fund’ which will provide £50,000 worth of funding for students who are struggling to pay the soaring rent prices.
The increasing cost of rent is an issue which students care deeply about. This year’s union election featured three presidential candidates all pledging to tackle the cost of extortionate student rents.
Dave Keenan, founder of activist group ‘Fair Rent Now!’, was elected Union President by a landslide, on a manifesto vowing to fight for affordable student rents.
Keenan argued in his campaign that student rent should not exceed £475 a month, the minimum student loan payment. He hopes to make his own rent deal with the university during his presidency.
Brig spoke to some students about their experiences with halls.
Rory, a fourth year Politics student, has spent the past three years living in university accommodation.
“Socially, living in halls was one of the best experiences of my life. Every other aspect of it was horrible,” he said. “Having to deal with mould creeping through the windows and radiators not working in the dead of winter was terrible.
“The worst thing was the room size. You essentially paid £439 for a box.”
When asked about whether he felt halls were value for money, Rory told Brig: “The price the university charge for rent is shocking, and frankly, I think it’s appalling that they can charge such an unreasonable amount of money knowing that some of their students have to live on £45 a month afterwards.”
Rory has since moved out of university accommodation to a private flat.
Craig Forsyth, who ran for Union President last year on a promise of tackling student rents, also spoke to Brig on his experience with student accommodation.
Forsyth, who has since graduated, stayed in university accommodation for three of his four years at Stirling University.
He said: “Overall, I enjoyed halls. It felt safer and took a lot of stress out of figuring out where I was living every year to just say I was going back into halls.”
However, when asked if he felt he student accommodation was worth the price he paid for rent, he replied: “Absolutely not. When I lived in a private flat, I paid £340 a month for rent and all my bills in a good sized double room.
“The following year, I was spending £90 more per month for a much smaller single room and sharing facilities with more people.
“As much as halls were an easy option, and I was very lucky in the flatmates I was allocated with, if circumstances had allowed me to take a private tenancy in fourth year, I definitely wouldn’t have gone back into halls.”