Ben HaywardOctober 3rd
2019

Hundreds of university students have been left feeling cheated after their promised accommodation was not built in time for the beginning of term.

250 students at the University of Portsmouth have been left in the lurch, with many forced to stay hotels away from other students and with no cooking facilities. 

According to housing charity Unipol, there are 22 private student blocks across the UK that have been delayed this term - almost a third of those being built.

Students Portsmouth homeless

It’s important to note that the issue is not the fault of the University of Portsmouth as these are private developments over which the institution has no control.

However, the university's vice-chancellor, Professor Graham Galbraith, has spoken out, saying there is a serious lack of scrutiny about how the private student accommodation system is run.

Speaking to the BBC, Prof Galbraith said: “At the end of the day, those housing providers know that the universities will step in. So where does the responsibility for this lie? Because they seem to be able to walk away.”

Prof Galbraith also said it is ‘extraordinary’ that billions of pounds of taxpayers' money can go into these private rental projects with next to no accountability, and that students have very little consumer protection due to the ‘incredibly one-sided’ nature of the contracts.

Students homeless Portsmouth

And the problem isn’t confined to Portsmouth. This term has seen reports of unfinished flats in Swansea, Lincoln, Liverpool and Bristol too.

But what can those affected by the issue do? Universities UK says its code of conduct applies only to university-owned housing and the Office for Students, says it ‘doesn't have powers to regulate private accommodation providers’.

According to the BBC, Alex, an international student from the Netherlands, found out his accommodation wasn’t ready as he was travelling to the UK.

In a new country and a new city for the first time he was forced to book himself into a hotel at his own expense.

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"I didn't know anything about this city, I couldn't make any friends. It was hard for the first week," says Alex, who was then found a room by the university.

Alex also revealed that, shockingly, on the day they told people they couldn’t move in, they were still asking for money from them and that the compensation offer of £150 is less than they are still being charged for a week's rent.

The company behind the development, Prime Student Living, says it has ‘unreservedly apologised to students’ but blames its building contractor for a lack of advance warning of the failure to open on time.

A spokesman for the company said: “[We are] disappointed to hear that the university does not consider that we have communicated effectively to them".

"We believe that we have done everything possible to mitigate the impact for those affected in the time available. We will continue to do all we can to get students into the building as an urgent priority."

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