Student Housing letter

The Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP
Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education
Department for Education
Sanctuary Buildings
20 Great Smith Street

Ruth Cadbury MP
House of Commons

Dear Robert,

I’m writing to you ahead of the new university term to raise the issue of the cost of university accommodation. This is an issue that has been raised with me by both new students and existing students, along with parents, in my constituency.

I’m proud that thanks to Hounslow’s outstanding schools many young people can go to university, including many who are the first in their family to do so. Whether it’s those studying locally at universities such as Kingston, or Brunel or those going further afield, I know how important it is that we support students as they begin their studies.

Therefore I have been very concerned to hear about the increased and rapidly rising cost of university accommodation, especially where that is provided by third parties such as Unite student housing. As you know, while some of these developments offer a larger and more substantial set of housing services than traditional rented HMOs, I am very concerned to hear about the ever-increasing cost of renting in these third party providers.

This is particularly worrying as many universities, as reported recently in the Times, are unable to offer adequate accommodation to first year students meaning that more will be forced to use third party providers.

One parent who I spoke to whose daughter will be starting university this autumn, said that the cost of rent this year is more than double the cost for her son, who only graduated this summer and who went to a university in a similar-sized city. This increase in the cost of housing comes alongside the wider cost of living pressures facing students, whether they live on campus or remain at home. Last year I was contacted by a student locally who was having to work 3 different part-time jobs as they had to pay rent in London, and this was naturally making their studies much harder.

It must be inevitable that students who are having to do long hours of paid work cannot be getting the most out of University; whether it be academically or the additional activities. This will then impact on their CVs and their place in the competitive jobs market, which can only perpetuate the challenge of addressing social mobility – an issue you have rightly long campaigned on.

I would like to know what steps the Department is taking to monitor the cost of accommodation, and what steps can be taken to ensure that universities are adequately supporting students around housing costs?

I appreciate that universities offer hardship schemes and different support schemes, but the feedback I have heard is that this is not always adequate, or easy to access, particularly at the smaller and newer higher education colleges.  

I look forward to hearing back from you with further information.

Yours sincerely

Ruth's signature
Letter summary
Student Housing letter to Education Secretary