University College Dublin (UCD) is to begin talks with landlords to rent accommodation for students who will be unable to get places in university-owned accommodation from next September.
The action is being taken partly because of fears that the housing crisis could prevent many students from applying for the State’s biggest universities because they are unable to get places to stay, or unable to pay for available places.
The university’s own stock of 4,100 beds in university halls – which has been added to significantly in recent years – are currently full, though applications for the next academic year will open next month, with CAO beds held in reserve for applicants in August.
Now UCD is “opening discussions” with private landlords where it would rent properties and sublet them to students, with the college providing similar booking and support services as it does for those living on campus.
David Kelly, the university’s bursar and chief financial officer, said demand for shared rooms and “digs” style accommodation is also being explored amid a crisis that has become “much more acute in the last 12 to 18 months”.
Students from rural areas are being forced into longer and longer commutes, with drivers sometimes spotted sleeping in carparks on the Belfield campus early in the morning, he told The Irish Times.
Similar issues have been reported at other institutions, with Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, the University of Galway’s president, previously suggesting there were signs of young people choosing to study closer to home in greater numbers.
“We are looking at renting out other apartments and then sub-letting them to our students to simplify the process for them,” Mr Kelly said.
“We would do the booking and we’d provide as much of the same facilities as we can provide here, but off-campus.
“We’d have residence assistance embedded within these blocks and support there for students that would require it, linking back to the professional services in UCD.
“We’re just opening discussions with landlords at the minute so we’re at very early stages, but we’ve done it in the past, it can be done, and it’s something that might help our students.”
The short-term solution comes as Higher Education Minister Simon Harris this month announced a €40 million State investment to pay for 405 student beds in Dublin City University, with similar projects in the pipeline for UCD, Trinity and University College Cork under the Housing For All strategy.