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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

"I feel sorry for the first years”: Students Speak Out Amidst Hillhead Rents Rise

Updated: May 16

Despite continued closures and grimy conditions, University-run halls will increase in price next year.


By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco & Kirsten Koss


Grimy and greasy extractor fan in one of Hillhead's flats
A clogged extractor fan as seen in the flat of first year Ben. Supplied photo.

Amidst the ongoing closure of community spaces and rising accommodation costs, students are speaking out about conditions at the University’s Hillhead Student Village. 


An investigation by The Gaudie found that students staying in University-run accommodation will have to pay hundreds of pounds more in rent next academic year. 


Undergraduates opting to stay in Wavell or Fyfe Houses, the University’s budget offering, will have to fork out an additional £160 over a 40-week tenancy. The University has increased rents by four percent – from £99 per-week this academic year to £103 per-week in 2024/25.

 

At the opposite end of the scale, New Carnegie Court, the University’s most expensive package for undergraduates, will cost an additional £400 annually for new residents. Prices are set to increase six percent from £168 per-week to £178 per-week. 


This means that undergraduate living costs will average over £5000 for incoming Freshers.

Postgraduate students will also see an increase as prices rise an average of six percent. The cheapest option, flats at Wavell and Fyfe Houses, will increase £200 over the 50-week period postgraduate tenancy, while the most expensive choice, the on-campus Kings Hall, will total an additional £500 for new tenants.


As The Gaudie first reported in March, large swathes of the Headspace building, Hillhead’s flagship community space, have been closed since last spring.


An abandoned space with lots of boxes and other junk
The inside of The Works, closed due to RAAC

Concerns over the prevalence of faulty concrete in the building’s structure has resulted in the shuttering of cafe/bar The Works and the on site Co-Op. 


This means that more than a thousand residents do not have access to on-site hot meals or grocery essentials.


The University was unable to confirm when the shuttered facilities would be reopened.  





Students share experiences of poor conditions in flats


First year student Ben told us that while staff have been ‘brilliant’, requests for repairs in his flat have often fallen on deaf ears.


Ben told us about his first impressions of his living space: 


“The kitchen smelt of cigarette smoke and the coffee table was covered in burn marks.”

Burn marks on a table in Ben's flat.
Burn marks on a table in Ben's flat.

“Our extractor fan was dripping with grease, not to mention the poor general condition of the paintwork, carpet and walls etc.”


“All were not great first impressions for my parents sending me off to live here for a year.”


After the door of his flat broke in October, Ben said it took the University over three weeks to fix the issue. A damp patch in his bathroom sprung a leak after more than a week of waiting for a University contractor to repair the damage.

 

Ben isn’t the only person to express frustration with his experience. 


One former Hillhead resident noted: “I spent around £4,300 for 8 months, which is about half of what I spend now in a bigger and less crowded privately rented flat. It is nice to not worry about bills, but for living with 5 people and not having a lot of liberties, it was overpriced.”


Another student said: “For it being the university’s own (and recommended) student accommodation you’d expect it to be at a reasonable price.”


“However this wasn’t the case, I stayed in New Carnegie last year, and my SAAS loan didn’t cover the rent alone - whereas this year, in private student accommodation my SAAS does cover my rent and leaves me with left over too.”


Hillhead not all bad, students say


However, some residents had good things to say about staying at Hillhead, with one commenting positively about the free gym membership to ASV. 


Another student added: “It is a reliable space at generally very reasonable prices (based off my living in a more middle-of-the-range option).”

“Facilities/amenities were generally sufficient, but if they weren’t then we were aware that we could contact someone about them. Not the best option one could find, but a very safe one.”


"Better value for money"


Ben is adamant that he will not be returning to Hillhead next year, despite the University offering a 10% discount for returning students. 


Water damage in the ceiling of a bathroom
Ben had to wait weeks for a leak in his ceiling to be repaired.

He quipped: “It doesn’t surprise me that they need to tempt returning students with a discount because a sane person wouldn’t choose to remain here without one.”


“I’m paying £147 per week next year for a fully contained studio accommodation in the city centre. A 1st year in an ensuite with a shared kitchen at Hillhead is paying £178. That sums it up really.”




Reacting to the news that rents could be increasing, another former tenant said: 


“I’d feel sorry for the first years who are encouraged to stay there by the uni when much cheaper alternatives are available

"My current privately rented flat is so much cheaper than my first year flat was, and I can only imagine prices for the student accommodation have risen since i was there.”


A second added: “While it wouldn’t diminish Hillhead’s status as a safe option for first years, part of its appeal is also in being greatly affordable if a student needs it to be, so rising prices would be very detrimental in my view.”


A final student concluded that the University’s accommodation offering is “way too overpriced”, adding that “private accommodation offers much better value for money.”


University Says…


Speaking to The Gaudie, a spokesperson for the University of Aberdeen defended the price increases.

The spokesperson said: “The University offers a range of accommodation choices at different price levels.  


“Rents remained largely the same between 2016 to 2021 but inflationary pressures have driven an uplift in rents for next year. However, the cost of University of Aberdeen accommodation remains competitive and is in line with or lower than other Scottish universities. 


“For more affordable standard accommodation, rent increases are limited to 4%, ensuring that the majority of the University’s accommodation portfolio is below the Scottish student loan starting point for 2023/4. A 6% uplift has been applied to en-suite provision.

"Aberdeen Sports Village membership is also included in the rent, supporting students to try new sports clubs. The University also continues to provide a year of free accommodation to widening access students. 


“The University continues to support students who are struggling financially; within halls this includes food vouchers, weekend bags, rent payment plans and financial help with rent.”


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