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St Andrews students protest outside principal’s home amid claims of housing ‘crisis’

Crowds of students gathered outside the home of St Andrews University’s principal amid claims of a housing “crisis” in the town.

Dozens of people – including residents – took to the streets on Sunday to highlight the struggles some students have faced in securing accommodation.

The protest, organised by student group Campaign for Affordable Student Housing (CASH), began at St Salvator’s Quad and marched towards principal Sally Mapstone’s house.

Protestors stopped outside the university principal’s home.

The university says the housing shortage is a nationwide problem and insists all students have been housed for the current term.

Barry Will, who helps run CASH, spoke through a megaphone as the congregation stopped outside the house during the protest where he claimed the principal is “directly responsible for manufacturing” the housing crisis.

As the march continued, the crowd could be heard chanting: “hey hey ho ho Sally Mapstone’s got to go.”

Principal Mapstone has been approached for comment.

‘This is not an anonymous issue’

Second year student Alison Russell attended the protest with her two flatmates Amy Barnes and Mhairi Buchan.

The trio are living in Dundee due to the lack of accommodation in St Andrews.

Alison, who is originally from Edinburgh, said she attended the protest to “put a face to the problem”.

She said: “This is not an anonymous issue – we’re St Andrews students who can’t live in St Andrews.

St Andrews students Amy Barnes, Mhairi Buchan and Alison Russell who all share a flat in Dundee.

“We want to highlight the issues to the university so they can see the people who are personally affected.

“I wasn’t expecting to live in Dundee at all – we thought that would be worst comes to worst.

“Another aspect is that you can’t even afford the rent in St Andrews and we were also scared of increasing bills on top of that.

Police escorted the crowd as they marched through St Andrews.

“We can’t build houses, there’s nothing we (students) can do.

“It won’t change unless unless people higher up make changes.”

Tom Eames, a third year biology student who lives just outside of St Andrews in Strathkinness, said he attended the protest to demand change.

St Andrews student, Tom Eames, left.

He said: “With most modules, attendance is compulsory to pass and I think it’s a little bit ridiculous to expect students to attend if you can’t offer them accommodation they can afford or for the council not try and help the situation on the private market.”

Barry Will from CASH says students want the university and Fife Council to provide more affordable housing and reduce student numbers next year.

‘We want solutions to housing crisis’ say St Andrews students

He said: “We’re taking to the streets in solidarity with the local residents of St Andrews and want solutions that work for our entire community – not just students.

“The accommodation challenges we’re seeing in St Andrews are not out of the university’s control.

Barry Will from CASH.

“We are over capacity for our small town and the university should immediately consider reducing student numbers next year to reduce the pressure on housing.”

A spokesperson for St Andrews University insists it is continuing to work with students and stakeholders on a response to “general housing challenges” which are “common to university communities across the country”.

Students protesting in St Andrews.

The spokesperson said: “Our residential and business services teams has worked enormously hard to find places for students who told us in August that they’d been unable to find private accommodation as a result of the squeeze in the private sector.

“There are currently no undergraduate students on our housing waiting lists, and all first year students were offered university accommodation in line with our longstanding guarantee.”

Fife Council’s housing spokesperson councillor Judy Hamilton says balancing the housing needs in St Andrews has “historically been a major issue” and she is working with the university to see how the council can help.