O’Sullivan criticised over delay in accommodation report

Just one bed for every six students starting in Athlone Institute of Technology, says union

 Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said the Higher Education Authority report on student accommodation would not be published until the first week in September. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said the Higher Education Authority report on student accommodation would not be published until the first week in September. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

A report examining the student accommodation crisis will not be published until early next month, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan has said amid mounting criticism over perceived Government inaction.

Fianna Fáil has described the Minister’s failure to publish the Higher Education Authority (HEA) report as “shameful”, while students’ unions across the country have called for emergency measures to be put in place.

Speaking in Limerick, Ms O’Sullivan advised students who knew where they were going to look for accommodation as quickly as possible.

She has also urged anyone with a spare room in their house to consider renting it to students, noting there would be no tax implications if they did not earn more than €12,000.

She said the HEA report would not be published until the first week in September but also indicated there might be measures taken in the forthcoming budget to assist with the provision of more student accommodation.

“We do recognise that there are pressures on accommodation and we want to address those in the short term in so far as we can,” the Minister said.

New heights

disclosed by The Irish Times

The report identifies a “significant shortage” of on-campus accommodation and privately owned student accommodation in Dublin and “to a lesser extent” Cork, Galway and Limerick. The problem, however, is by no means confined to these cities.

In the midlands, there is just one bed for every six students starting at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), according to its students’ union. It said there were just 150 beds available for almost 1,000 students who were due to start at the third-level institute. Fifty of these were “digs” where students stay with families and receive meals.

Shortage

Kevin Ronan

The average cost of renting a room in student accommodation in Athlone is €55 a week, with digs available for about €90.

Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath Robert Troy said that students who would be taking up a course in Athlone would have a huge struggle to secure a place to stay.

“The crisis is affecting AIT particularly as there is no on-site campus accommodation and thus students now and in the past dependt solely on independent rentals,” he said.

The Union of Students in Ireland has also stepped up its campaign to get homeowners to sign up to its rooms listing website homes.usi.ie ahead of the new semester.

The HEA estimates that about 34 per cent of students in higher education seek accommodation each year.