A warning to anyone applying to St Andrews

(140 Posts)
MissPiggy5 Sat 21-Feb-15 16:37:33

Can I please just warn any of you that have offspring with applications in to St Andrew's of the ridiculous situation and bun fight that happens in February of the 1st year, to find accommodation for the 2nd and subsequent years?

We have just had a horrendous time with our gorgeous DS, who got into St Andrews as his insurance choice after very narrowly missing out (0.5% in one paper FGS) on a place at Cambridge. Please let this tale of woe be of guidance to all those out there who are deciding on any offers received and how to 'play' the Firm v Insurance choice lottery.

First of all, being English doesn't help - no real surprise there. DS received his A level results mid Aug alongside everyone else, but a month after the Scottish students receive their Highers results. Net result: he was allocated his 'guaranteed' accommodation on a take it or leave it basis. This was not the mid-range but still expensive halls he had applied for, but the absolute top of the range catered, en-suite flat that is let out to golfers over the summer. We had no choice but to accept with Uni start on 6 Sep, just over 2 weeks after A level results so are now paying £7500 for 2 semesters - 1 Sep 14 - 30 May 15, which is actually £1000/month.

Being of middle income, so getting no help with anything, we asked DS if he could possibly find somewhere cheaper to live next year as paying this amount is not sustainable for us.

Next comes the horrendous 'releasing of lists' by local estate agents on 1 Feb to coincide with the 7 days that re-application for halls is open to current residents. What a nightmare. Our poor, unprepared DS spent the best part of a week both day and night chasing his tail. In brief, the vast majority of the university's students are from wealthy backgrounds and they actively recruit from such places as California; this obviously drives the local economy especially regarding private housing. Maybe its the Kate and Wills effect, who knows? The estate agents are shameless and seem to be running a cartel. There were queues round the block to book viewings with literally hundreds of students applying for each available house/flat. Most require multiple references and interviews to even get a viewing and then, even if they're luck enough to be successful, large deposits are being demanded to secure the property. Not only that, there are no properties available at all anywhere in the area from 30 May due to the golf so students don't even have the option of staying locally and getting some summer work.

The situation got so bad this month that there was a demonstration yesterday to demand that the University and local council take action. There's also a petition which will be sent to the Principal and Vice Chancellor at link. Even if you don't sign it, please read the comments left by students and parents alike; it makes for very worrying reading.

https://www.change.org/p/professor-louise-richardson-accomodation-and-business-services-tell-us-how-the-university-plans-to-address-the-potential-accommodation-crisis

The situation for us now is that DS has re-applied to go back into halls, self-catered this time to save a little money, but the bill is still going to be £6200/year, which is much higher than the rest of the UK but still cheaper than private rental. There is absolutely no guarantee he'll get in, and if he doesn't I have absolutely no idea what we'll do.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I really wish I knew all this a year ago as I would now be having a very different conversation with DS about his options once his offers came in.

A rather distraught and angry Mum.

OP’s posts: |
LaurieFairyCake Sat 21-Feb-15 16:45:19

Why isn't he borrowing the money for it - student loans? confused

Are you saying they don't lend that much?

Groovee Sat 21-Feb-15 16:49:49

I don't think it's just St Andrews with the student accommodation problems.

My niece went Napier in Edinburgh last summer. Thankfully she's staying with my mum and dad for her course, but some of her friends who got in through clearing after the exam results, landed up in accommodation which is costing about £1000 a month.

I've heard of queues round the block in Edinburgh too.

OldLadyKnows Sat 21-Feb-15 16:50:20

How does £7500 for 9 months equal £1000 per month?

Has your ds considered living further out of town? It doesn't have to be "student accommodation", a shared flat with friends would do. My DNephew commutes in from Glenrothes.

SirChenjin Sat 21-Feb-15 16:52:03

I've lived up here in Edinburgh for many years and went to University 25 years ago. Edinburgh and St Andrews have always been known as the place where the privately educated offspring of rich parents went, with rents adjusted to take account of this. I'm afraid this is not a new thing sad

OldLadyKnows Sat 21-Feb-15 16:55:55

Cheaper places in Dundee; might be worth checking the buses/trains (to Leuchars for trains)

TheWanderingUterus Sat 21-Feb-15 16:57:18

It was the same when I was a second year twelve years ago.

I saw some horrific and expensive properties including two flats marketed as three beds, one of which had triple bunk beds and one which had curtains dividing one large room into three. All £600 a month or more. With thirty other people behind me in the queue.

If he can hold his nerve then some properties do come up in September, he should particularly look in newsagents windows rather than the main agents. DH and I found a property that way twice.

Also living out of St Andrews is an option taken up by quite a lot of my fellow students. Lots found spaces in Cupar and Leuchars and paid for the bus/car parking with the money they saved. Downside is the buses and being out of the social action a bit. I worked at a care home in Cupar for a few years after graduating, buses ran from 6am and stopped at 11, don't know if it's still the same.

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chocoluvva Sat 21-Feb-15 16:58:43

FWIW - Scottish students get their results around 5th/6th August.

EduCated Sat 21-Feb-15 16:59:27

The prices may be higher, but none of the rest of it sounds far off from what happens at most large-ish and well established universities.

Locally the housing lists and house hunting fever have started happening in November, which is utterly ridiculous.

MissPiggy5 Sat 21-Feb-15 17:08:15

LaurieFairyCake - he has borrowed all he's allowed to which is just over £3k/year, "Bank of Mum and Dad" are paying the rest.
OldLadyKnows - yes, £7500 over 9m is £833/month - my mistake
choccoluvva - thanks for the dates; my point is that Scottish student get their results before English students so therefore I assume get their accommodation allocated first.

Thanks all for your replies. I think he will have to look to Dundee if he doesn't get back into halls. Does anyone know if the situation is as bad there, after all it does have it's own Uni population to accommodate?

OP’s posts: |
Lyndie Sat 21-Feb-15 17:18:20

Scottish students don't get their accommodation allocated first.

Did he insist on a single room? That cuts down your options hugely at St Andrews as the centre of town halls are virtually all twin rooms for first years.

I'm sorry you've had grief though, it's definitely something most people know about when they accept an offer. As with most Universities they have expanded the student numbers without considering the knock on effect to students.

It's still a great place to be a student! <waves to Uterus>

chocoluvva Sat 21-Feb-15 17:34:40

MissPiggy - I didn't really mean to sound unsympathetic - FWIW I think it's horrifying that it's so expensive to go to uni. But I don't think St Andrews is any more expensive than London - possibly other cities too - Edinburgh is horrendously expensive too.

(I thank my lucky stars for living in Scotland and having my DC's uni fees paid. Same situation as you - middle income household. My DD didn't even consider English unis as they are so expensive.)

MissPiggy5 Sat 21-Feb-15 17:44:41

I don't expect sympathy - we should have done more research. This is really the point that I'm trying to get across to other parents of Year 12/13s on this forum. We were maybe a tad too lenient with DS and tried not to interfere too much as he studied so hard. We should have had a more robust approach and maybe I should have gone with my gut instinct which was to ask him not to accept St Andrews as his insurance choice as it was so far away (his alternative was Exeter which is 2 hrs drive away) AND its a 4 year course.

Still, it's too late now and we'll just have to get on with it. Lesson learnt.

OP’s posts: |
jeanne16 Sat 21-Feb-15 17:52:40

Thanks for this posting. I find this sort of info very useful. I have heard similar horror stories about Edinburgh. It would be useful to know which other cities are as problematic for accommodation. The 'pile em high' attitude of some of the unis isn't helping, of course.

chocoluvva Sat 21-Feb-15 18:00:06

That's very nice of you MissPiggy - you won't be the only one to be learning from experience I'm sure - I didn't even know until recently that students won't always get a loan that covers all their costs. It's outrageous.

chocoluvva Sat 21-Feb-15 18:04:48

Something I'd point out to other parents is that many (most?) student halls are horrendously noise - my DD (who is averagely noise tolerant/intolerant IMO - we live in a suburb) was very fed up of the constant loud music, noise of the city centre and fire-alarms going off in her hall. Such a shame as the accommodation was very nice. When we went to view it the (Unite) rep was happy to tell her and her friends how they could have parties of up to 20 people in their flat as often as they liked. hmm

MissPiggy5 Sat 21-Feb-15 18:12:03

Jeanne - I gather Bristol also has similar problems so you may want to check this out further

OP’s posts: |
PrimalLass Sat 21-Feb-15 18:18:30

Maybe its the Kate and Wills effect, who knows? The estate agents are shameless and seem to be running a cartel.

It's Fife Council who are running the cartel. My mum's had a student flat in St A since I lived there 1995-1997. Even though the flat has had an HMO licence since then, Fife Council keep changing the rules. Now they want £400 just for an easement of conditions that they have just changed ... It's no wonder that there is not enough student accommodation.

PrimalLass Sat 21-Feb-15 18:23:57

When New Halls were built in the 1990s it was all over the news that the hall fees for 3 terms was more than the (then) full grant (or maybe the full loan, can't remember). But they were single rooms with a double bed an an ensuite. My halls in Glasgow were very far from that (a complete dump but we loved it).

PrimalLass Sat 21-Feb-15 18:25:36

You'd be better to hold onto your £7500 and try and scrape together the deposit to buy somewhere (also near impossible as v expensive and HMO problem).

balia Sat 21-Feb-15 18:29:33

I'd heard that Edinburgh was incredibly expensive and warned a friend whose DD is applying (not that she listened!) so thanks OP, I will send her this link!

TranquilityofSolitude Sat 21-Feb-15 18:32:00

Many thanks for sharing your experience, MissPiggy5. I have a DD in Yr12 so we are starting to consider our options.

ChilliAndMint Sat 21-Feb-15 18:34:06

Could he perhaps lodge at a private house?
Renting a room will cost at lot less.

Doggygirl Sat 21-Feb-15 18:38:28

Wow - sounds crazy.

I went to a Scottish university in the late 1980s - I shared a room in halls I first year and then rented three grotty flats over the next three years.

I think each of us paid a total of £50 per month.

Doggygirl Sat 21-Feb-15 18:39:09

Same here, Primal!

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