The president of a Dundee student union has called on the Scottish Government to issue rent rebates to those left out of pocket amid a tightening of coronavirus restrictions at universities.
Scott Quinn, Dusa (Dundee University Student Association) president, penned an open letter in light of Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that a staggered return to campuses will be extended until the end of February.
Mr Quinn, who represents 17,000 Dundee University students, has said the decision has left students faced with the prospect of paying rent for an empty property.
A government spokesman insisted they are trying to help students, but that rent arrangements are outwith their remit.
Nevertheless, Mr Quinn believes the government should offer assistance, especially to those in private rented accommodation, in light of the restrictions.
He said: “I think it is important to stress… the understanding of the decision to return Scotland to lockdown.
“The health and wellbeing of everyone, including our most vulnerable, must come first and I appreciate the need for the tough choices made.
“The result of this also sees students paying rent for accommodation that they cannot access.
“This is a significant and unfair cost to students that they should not have to endure. Many do not have the luxury of staying in university halls of residence, meaning they are stuck paying thousands of pounds in rent to landlords who only see them as an income stream.
“Students should not have to bear the brunt of these costs and be punished for following guidance.”
Mr Quinn added that students’ pockets have also been hit in the job market, as the hospitality and retail sector has been among the worst affected by the pandemic.
“The lack of available income sources can put students through significant financial hardship, and the need to then pay unnecessary rental costs is unacceptable,” he said.
Mr Quinn also plans to write to private student accommodation providers in the city to encourage them to offer rent rebates.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to look urgently — working with institutions, unions and student representatives — at various issues surrounding the return of students to their studies, accommodation and campuses next term, and as to whether any further changes are required to the planned staggered return.
“However, we have no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation, whether that is managed by universities, colleges or private sector organisations. These are judgments that universities, colleges and providers have got to make in contact and consultation with their student community, and it’s right and appropriate that that is undertaken.
“We encourage accommodation providers to come to an appropriate resolution of issues around tenancy agreements and rent payments. Any students facing additional hardship as a result of Covid-19 should apply for financial support from the FE/HE Discretionary Funds.”