Briefings & Evidence

Student accommodation briefing

We have prepared a briefing for MSPs and others interested in the issues surrounding student accommodation and what the current situation is for universities and their students.

The brief gives an overview of the range of actions that universities have been actively taking to anticipate and mitigate the pressures in support of their students. This includes a range of further actions institutions are keen to explore and a set of actions that universities would like to see Government and other partners take forward.

Key points to note:

  • Whilst the overwhelming majority of students continue to find accommodation, this year (2022/23) has seen a real challenge for some students. Where they occurred, most shortages were resolved in a matter of days or weeks. Institutions advise most issues were addressed within September but that may have been achieved via short-term solutions.
  • There has been particular pressure in the city of Glasgow1, however a shortage of appropriate accommodation is an issue affecting a minority of students in almost every city and region.
  • January 2023 could be another pressure point because of the postgraduate taught intake.
  • The biggest source of pressure on accommodation is a combination of supply-side factors that are limiting availability. Recent policy and legislative changes in support of renters in Scotland has had the inadvertent effect of significantly contracting the market, disrupting the mixed model for student accommodation, which has always involved the private rental market alongside university-owned and private purpose built student accommodation (PBSA).
  • To play their part in a solution, universities are providing additional support to students and working directly and with local partners to try to increase supply. Section one of this brief sets out an extensive range of actions taken by institutions in support of their students.
  • Universities want to see the Scottish Government to use its Review of PBSA, due out in spring 2023, to take clear steps to stimulate the market for private PBSA, to increase supply. We also want to see action taken to encourage private landlords to re-enter the HMO market2 which is often a more affordable option for students. The Scottish Government should not extend existing regulations of a 28-day notice period for renters to the PBSA market. Doing so threatens to undermine the business model, further limiting supply, and making university-owned PBSA financially unsustainable.