The housing situation in the UK—the island nation is facing a severe shortage of homes—has forced Pritish Mukherjee (name changed), a first-year student enrolled at the University of Manchester, to question his decision to study overseas.
He paid a huge sum of money to an online housing platform that promised to provide accommodation despite the crisis situation. However, he is still waiting to hear from them while staying at a relative's place in the UK.
Mukherjee is among thousands of students trying to tackle the challenges arising from the massive demand-supply mismatch when it comes to a place to stay in the UK.
“About 7,500-10,000 Indian students are struggling to find accommodation in the UK and this number is only rising,” says Saurabh Arora, founder and CEO of student housing platform University Living.
In all this, students who are already in the UK are turning to either sofa-surfing with friends or relatives, living at a hotel or far from the university, which is either discomfiting or is costing them a fortune, Arora says.
Moneycontrol interacted with a cross-section of students and education consultants to unearth possible solutions.
Always pay the token amount to block accommodation
In the gamut of country and course/university selection to finances, expenses and part-time jobs, international students must accord accommodation a high priority, suggests Rohit Sethi, director of overseas study consultancy ESS Global.
As a student, if you wish to stay in the university hostel, Sethi says students must plan the accommodation well in advance as it is quickly booked. “One way to avoid the accommodation hassle is to connect with universities and pay the token amount to block that particular accommodation,” he says.
According to University Living’s Arora, the right time to book accommodation, or at least initiate the process, is the moment you pay that deposit towards your tuition fee for the university or as soon as you receive your CAS (confirmation of acceptance for studies) letters.
Keep in touch with relatives and friends
Prachi Kapoor (name changed) applied for a master’s programme in finance at the University of Glasgow. The course commenced in September and given the accommodation crisis, she has not been able to join classes physically.
“The situation is worsening day by day,” she says. As an alternative, Kapoor tried finding accommodation outside her university. However, prices have spiralled, doubling the overall expenses. The alternative was the trusted family-and-friends network: Currently, she is residing at a relative’s place which is about 20 miles from the university.
Glasgow featured third in the list of sold-out cities, with Edinburgh second and Bristol topping, according to University Living’s rankings. But the housing platform suggests alternatives.
Hunting for accommodation 15-20 miles around the university might add to students’ travel expenses.
“However, they can later avoid it by getting monthly or yearly passes. At least, this will solve the accommodation problem,” Sethi says.
Do not hesitate to seek help from the larger Indian community
When planning to study overseas, education consultant Charushilla Narula often asks parents to create a resources tally because it’s not just money to fund the education but also a list of connections. “Whether it was dealing with the pandemic or the current accommodation crisis in the UK, resources matter,” she says.
In the present scenario, Narula believes even former or senior students can help connect with some options.
“Moreover, the UK has strong Indian communities and walking up to an uncle or aunty there can also open doors to some immediate places to stay,” the founder-director of education consultant University Connection says, adding, “As the adage goes, ask and you shall receive.”
Prepare yourself mentally and embrace patience
Students agree these crises do not come announced and suggest that people be always prepared mentally and physically.
“The best way to avoid such hassles is to always keep yourself connected with the concerned department at the university,” says Shreya Hassan (name changed), who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of West England, Bristol. “Try to keep interacting with them regularly.”
Hassan has to reside far from Bristol. “Nowadays, I have to travel for almost an hour to reach my university. But I am tackling the situation with utmost calmness and making myself understand that these things can happen at any point in time.”
She is also looking for a decent property closer to the university.
The crisis is deeper in London and the Greater London area, says Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and CEO of overseas education consulting firm LeverageEdu.
But he adds that there is a silver lining. Chaturvedi says that there has been a lot of activity in the housing market over the last 60 days and more players have invested deeply “We are likely to see things improve in the January intake.”Right now, any LeverageEdu student still without accommodation is being advised to either seek short-term accommodation slightly farther away from the campus or wait these few weeks off at youth hostels.