International students arriving in Dundee could be forced to lodge with existing students or stay in reduced-rate hotels as the city faces an unprecedented housing demand.
Current students have been asked by university bosses to consider whether they can find space for those arriving in January.
There are fears a lack of private rentals means demand for accommodation from international students could outstrip supply in the city.
But the Dundee Student Renters’ Union has criticised the appeal, saying the university should not have offered places to more students than the city can house.
An email from Dr Jim McGeorge, the university’s chief operations officer, was sent out to students and staff asking whether they could consider taking on a lodger by making a spare room or property available to those arriving in the city.
“If all the offer-holders who have indicated they are coming to Dundee do arrive, then we are facing a shortage,” it said.
“To mitigate this we have already booked out extra private accommodation in the city and have negotiated reduced rates with several local hotels.
“We are looking at the possibility of offering subsidies for prolonged hotel accommodation should it be needed.”
But Jake Mace, general secretary of the DSRU, said the university should not have offered places to students that the city can’t accommodate.
The pandemic meant many campuses shut, with learning moving online, and many students opted to end their tenancies and move home.
It meant landlords who normally let to students instead opted to target longer-term tenants.
Jake said: “There’s no doubt there is a Covid-19 housing crisis, and it’s affecting people in lots of different ways.
“One of those has been a shortage of accommodation as students return to the city.
It is incredibly incompetent.
Jack Mace, DSRU
“But the way to fix that isn’t by asking students to take on lodgers when the university is taking over £16,000 in tuition fees from international students and not being able to provide them with somewhere to live.
“It is incredibly incompetent.”
Jake also pointed out the vast majority of students in Dundee won’t own their own home, and will usually be living in a private let.
In these cases, subletting requires written permission from the landlord and must comply with the House of Multiple Occupancy licence.
“The onus should be on the housing providers in the city, not students,” he said.
Reduced rate hotels
“If the accommodation isn’t there, the university should not be accepting an over-subscription.”
A Dundee University spokesperson explained that while the university had been extremely successful in attracting students to the city, the current local rental market meant there was a possibility demand could exceed supply.
As well as the appeal to students and staff, the university has also run advertising campaigns to draw landlords back into the student housing market.
Dundee University working to mitigate shortages
A spokesperson said: “We have been working with Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA) and other partners to address this situation since summer 2021 when it became clear that shortages were a possibility.
“We have put in place several measures to mitigate against this, including booking out extra private accommodation in the city and negotiating reduced rates with several local hotels to provide short-term accommodation.”
It is difficult to assess exactly how many students may require assistance at this stage
Asked how many students are likely to arrive without definitive accommodation, they added: “Many students arrange their own accommodation and do not communicate directly with their university about this matter.
“This means it is difficult to assess exactly how many students may require assistance at this stage, but we have been in contact with them to offer any help we can give.
“DUSA provides extensive advice and guidance on housing rights which has been promoted to students.
“Any students offering a room to let are asked to confirm that their landlord will accept a new tenant and provide a tenancy agreement.”