Edinburgh University students living in converted common rooms due to housing shortage

Five fourth-year students are in one ‘dreadful’ room with very little privacy

Large groups of students at the University of Edinburgh are staying in converted accommodation common rooms due to the city’s housing shortage.

The Edinburgh Tab has spoken exclusively to several fourth-year students who are sleeping in bunk beds on the ground floor of multiple different accommodation blocks in Pollock Halls.

The students were required to return to the city for the start of term. However, they approached the uni for assistance in their search when they were unable to secure private accommodation.

Edinburgh University says it “provided temporary accommodation within our halls of residences […] after they informed us that they had not secured a place to live at the start of the semester. This was a short-term option to support these students while they found a more permanent place to live”.

While the university insists that all students who were living under this accommodation arrangement have now been offered a “permanent room at the university”, a number of students remain in short-term accommodation, The Edinburgh Tab understands.

Students have declined this offer because rooms have been offered randomly across the campuses, with some offered accommodation beyond their pricing budget, and others facing complete separation from their friendship groups.

A student’s wardrobe stands opposite a vending machine in the former common room

One room on the ground floor of Turner House is currently home to five fourth-year students. Adam*, one of the residents, said this was their only option, as each private flat they applied for received up to 500 applications.

He described the arrangements as “dreadful”; three bunk beds with “zero privacy” next to the noisy main common room.

As advanced students at the university, they say that being among freshers all the time is “tedious”, and that they miss home comforts such as hosting movie nights. They have found being asked typical first-year questions about their A-Levels or whether they would like to hike up Arthur’s Seat frustrating.

Edinburgh Uni says that students are charged £9.60 for these arrangements, including bills, breakfast and dinner. Adam* and his friends are grateful for the cheap accommodation price but say they are still looking for a permanent flat in the city centre.

“We’re in this together. If it were just me, I’d be going f***ing mental”, he added.

The city is currently experiencing a severe shortage of shared rented housing, with many Edi students resorting to ‘sofa surfing’, staying with partners, or remaining at home with family until they secure accommodation.

Last month, Edinburgh was revealed to be the most expensive city for students to live in by a NatWest report,  as the Scottish capital is the only student city in which students spend more than their monthly income.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has recently introduced an emergency rent freeze and a ban on winter evictions to help ease the cost of living concerns.

Speaking to The Edinburgh Tab, a spokesperson for The University of Edinburgh said:

“We are acutely aware that some students have been struggling to find suitable accommodation in Edinburgh. We want to support them throughout this increasingly challenging period and have opened an Accommodation Information Service in collaboration with our Students’ Association. The service aims to help any of our students who are having difficulties finding accommodation at the start of the semester, and we are doing everything we can to support anyone that contacts us for help.

“All students who met the requirements of our accommodation guarantee have been offered a place in University residences this year. We have also been in a position to provide offers of accommodation to more than 2,600 students over and above our guaranteed places.

“We provided temporary accommodation within our halls of residences for some students that didn’t fall within our accommodation guarantee, after they informed us that they had not secured a place to live at the start of the semester. This was a short-term option to support these students while they found a more permanent place to live. All 24 students who took up this option have now been offered a permanent room at the University.

“We have a small number of students yet to arrive in Edinburgh who have an accommodation contract with us, and we are prioritising offering any further rooms to students who are still urgently seeking a place to live.

“Students looking for private sector accommodation are competing with Edinburgh’s expanding workforce as well as visitors who are attracted to short-term lets across the city. Even though these factors are largely outside the University’s control, we understand that we have a part to play in finding solutions to the problem.

“We continue to work with our partner organisations across the city including the City of Edinburgh Council and other higher and further education providers to refresh our longer term accommodation strategy. In the short-term we have just opened a new refurbished building in Gilmore Place in central Edinburgh which can accommodate 230 students.”


*Some names have been changed

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