Rector urges student digs review

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A university rector has repeated calls for a review of student accommodation following the discovery that some first-year students will be temporarily housed in budget hotels and makeshift dormitories.

The University of Edinburgh has admitted that 23 students are to be housed for up to 30 days in Travelodges in the city centre, while a further 17 will be placed in “mini-dorms” in Pollock House.

Each of the four single-sex dormitories can house up to six students using bunk beds. The students will have access to a wardrobe, a lockable chest of drawers, a desk and a shared bathroom. Internet access will also be provided.

Rector Peter McColl had already called for a review of the accommodation system in January when he discovered Masson House, which is operated by the university’s commercial wing, was being used for conference guests.

The admission came despite more than 60 students having been told the previous September that there was no option but to house them in Queen Margaret University accommodation 40 minutes away from campus.

The university has defended the recent move, saying money generated by renting out the accommodation helped to keep student rents down. But speaking to the Evening News about the new crisis, Mr McColl said: “I’m very disappointed that the university hasn’t been able to meet the demand for student accommodation this year. It is vital that all students get excellent accommodation right from the start.

“I think they need to review the accommodation system urgently and ensure it is giving students priority.”

The spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said the establishment considered the current use of Masson House as “appropriate”, adding: “It generates a helpful subsidy which reduces student rents.” The university had previously said the total cost of the temporary housing would not be known until all the students had been successfully re-homed. However, it was estimated that it would cost up to £20,000 if the arrangement continued for the full 30 days.

The spokesperson added: “Accommodation services held a meeting with Peter McColl shortly after he joined as rector and they explained how we use Masson House. [We] continue to take forward developments to provide an appropriate range of accommodation options for our students.”