The University’s 2018-2023 strategic plan aims to build new graduate housing at a time scale years behind increasing graduate numbers. The document announces the aim to have begun the construction of 1000 additional graduate rooms by 2023. However, this goal comes alongside a promise to increase graduate numbers by up to 850 a year by 2023. This begs the question of where the new graduate students will be housed during the interim.
If student numbers increase before the University expands its accommodation, there is a real risk of price inflation in student housing.
Average student rental costs across the UK have been rising at rates well above inflation over the past years, with average rental costs now over £6000. Meanwhile, the proportion of students’ maintenance loans spent on rent has increased, from 55% in 2012/2013 to 73% in 2018/2019.
These rent prices are well outside those recommended by NUS policy which states that affordable rent for purpose-built accommodation should be no more than 50% of the maximum student finance loan available in England (£4,350 in 2018/2019). For students in Oxford, where the cost of living is already higher than much of the UK but maintenance loans are the same, increased rent prices pose even more of an issue.
Allison d’Ambrosia, Oxford SU VP for Graduates, told The Oxford Student: “In the University’s plans to grow student numbers by 850 a year but only beginning to build accommodation starting in 2023 according to the strategic plan, the University must support the colleges in the interim to provide housing to these graduate students.
“It is irresponsible on the part of the University to think it should not provide housing for fresher post graduates, especially with a 63% international graduate student population. The strategic plan states that these growing numbers will be done ‘while maintaining quality’ and for students that includes accommodation – accommodation that is close to their college, of high quality, and affordable.