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The housing horror story for students in Wales

02 Nov 2023 3 minute read
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Orla Tarn, NUS Wales President

Halloween has been and gone but there are still few things spookier for students than a housing horror story.

Even as we make the seasonal switch from frightening to festive, the scares keep coming for students who are already having to think about accommodation for 2024.

NUS Wales’ latest Cost of Living Survey revealed the overwhelming majority of students in Wales have seen an increase in housing costs over the last year, with a third saying they’ve been unable to make their rent payments.

Research by student housing charity Unipol and think tank the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) unmasked the scale of this.

The report, published last week, showed that the typical annual rent in Cardiff has risen by £736 over the last two years.

It means that the average university student was left with only 50p a week to live on from their maintenance loan once they have paid for their accommodation.

For many though, this financial trick isn’t even the first fright they get when knocking on a letting agents’ door.


Students in Bangor and Wrexham are now commuting from northern England because they can’t find affordable or adequate accommodation near campus.

There was chaos this summer as hundreds of students in Cardiff were told they no longer had guaranteed accommodation just weeks before they were due to start their studies.

They were directed towards the private market who had long since sold out.

These spiralling costs and the dwindling supply are enough to give anyone chills, but this particular scary story is barely into its third act.

Institutions are recruiting more and more students in a bid to balance their books as their own financial pressures mount.

Wales’ towns and cities are already struggling to keep up with the rising demand for beds and universities aren’t necessarily thinking about where students are going to live when they offer them places to study.

All this sits against the backdrop of rental prices across the country rising at the fastest rate in nine years.

The majority of students already have to juggle their studies with paid work just to eat and put a leaky roof over their heads.

But the scales have tipped, and many are spending more time working than studying – paying through the nose for accommodation that would make even the most garish ghoul want to scream.

Students need an early Christmas miracle if this housing horror story is going to have a happy ending and not simply inspire a series of increasingly terrible sequels.

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David Smith
David Smith
5 months ago

This presents a great opportunity to promote co-operative housing solutions as successfully demonstrated elsewhere.

5 months ago

Perhaps we as a society should reappraise the current model of university education. The “industrialisation” of higher education has not helped, the problem deepened by commercialisation of the “product”.

There are also alternatives which can sustain universities without impoverishing students – such as apprenticeships in a wide range of disciplines which cover a big slice of costs and pay a modest salary on top.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
5 months ago

The UK /Welsh education system needs a complete rethink. Turning all colleges into universities was a mistake, in my opinion, so too the expansion of the number of places and the privatisation of the universities themselves. In Cardiff alone there are far too many students pushing up rents for locals, not paying any council tax and putting untold pressure on the NHS. Something has to change.

5 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

It is the tuition fees that are the problem, I think the idea of the UK government was that with the tuition fee cap raised to £9000 per year there would a market created, which pleased their neoliberal instincts, as different universities would charge different amounts. This broadly doesn’t happen, the universities charge as much as they are allowed to, because the fees are paid via loans, not upfront, and to charge less than £9000 would make people think they were lower-tier, and it is the living costs while studying that are the immediate concern for students rather than the… Read more »

5 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

The expansion of placements in Cardiff has been ridiculous for years. Anyone who lived in the city could see that it was unsustainable. They sold these kids on a false bill of goods and scrood the townies in the process. I have sympathy for students but I have more sympathy for local renter’s who live in the same conditions, with the same lack of rights but could face very real homelessness at any given point. They are on their own without safety nets or people to fall back on should it all go terribly wrong. I think students should of… Read more »

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