UCD plans €300m student accommodation expansion

UCD aims to double students dwelling on-campus with 3,000 more beds

UCD campus in Belfield: the university has increased its rents by 7 per cent this year.  Photograph: Frank Miller

UCD campus in Belfield: the university has increased its rents by 7 per cent this year. Photograph: Frank Miller


University College Dublin, the State’s largest university, plans to spend more than €300 million to build on-campus accommodation for 3,000 more students, doubling the student population living on site.

The university’s newest apartment complex, Ashfield, opened yesterday, adding 354 student beds on the Belfield campus and bringing the total number of residential spaces to 3,164.

The Higher Education Authority has estimated a need for about 25,000 more beds for students nationally with the shortage of student accommodation at its worst in Dublin, where students are competing in a high-cost rental market with families and young workers.

Almost one quarter of students attending UCD will have access to on-campus housing once the new apartments have been built, university president Andrew Deeks said.

Strategic plan

The university wants to build taller apartment blocks than previously – ranging from six to 10 storeys in height – in order to double the amount of housing on site, without doubling the amount of campus space taken up by apartment blocks.

“We want to keep the green space and develop residences in specific areas. We hope to go a bit higher, to preserve as much green space as possible,” Mr Deeks said.

To complete its 10-year plan, which includes new academic and other student facilities, the university would be seeking funding from industry and philanthropic donations as well as exchequer funding, he said.

Speaking at the opening of the Ashfield apartments, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he hoped reforms to the planning and procurement systems could see the new accommodation built within five years.

“If we can get students out of private rental accommodation into student purpose-built residences, we will free up considerable space for people competing for limited rental properties,” he said.

The UCD housing project would benefit particularly from the proposal to speed up the planning processes by fast-tracking schemes of more than 100 units directly to An Bord Pleanála, he said. “This is a no-brainer as far as I am concerned. The Government’s action plan contains specific commitments that will be critical enablers of delivery of purpose-built accommodation, such as the additional 3,000 here at Belfield,” Mr Coveney said.

The university would also have access to funding through the Housing Finance Agency to ensure there would be no delays in the provision of new accommodation, he said.

Increased rents

The university said the increases were necessary to contribute towards the refurbishment of existing housing, and the new programme to provide for further student accommodation on campus. It said its prices still compared very favourably with the private rental market.

It added that all first-year students who had sought on-campus accommodation would be offered places this year.

Just over 1,000 beds were reserved for first-year students, 1,376 for international students and just over 300 for scholarship students, those with disabilities and residential assistants, while the rest of the student body has access to 441 spaces.

Mr Deeks said he wants to see a better mix of senior and junior students living on the campus. “On-campus accommodation works best when there is a mix of students which can create a self-supporting community of students,” he said.