At a recent conference set up as a joint collaboration between the Union of Students in Ireland and ICOS, one central theme emerged from the host of issues raised concerning life there: accommodation.
According to The Journal, as the country attracts an increasing cohort of students from abroad, its housing market and universities are struggling to provide suitable housing for them.
“There are a lot of problems. Where do you start?” Derrie Murray, programme officer with the Irish Council for International Students, asked.
During the 2014/2015 academic year, more than 18,000 international students were enrolled in Irish universities, institutes of technology and colleges, data from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) show. There are tens of thousands more studying in English language schools in the country.
And with the government’s plan to grow the number of foreign students in the coming years, those working in the international education sector worry whether problems concerning accommodation and the lack of funds available to universities’ international offices would be resolved anytime soon.
“It’s a matter of under-resourcing and that’s something we really try to hammer home,” Murray said.
At major Irish cities favoured by international students, accommodation costs are ballooning with demand for housing outstripping supply – a situation the universities are calling the worst they have ever seen.
While they welcome more purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) in the works across Dublin, the rental rates are proving to be a point of concern. Many PBSAs are priced at €200-€250 (US$223 to US$279) per week, a rate unsuitable or unaffordable to many international students, educators and students say.
“Some can afford accommodation with gyms and bowling alley and all rooms en suite but not everyone want or needs that.” – Murray
“… these rooms are starting at €250 a week. And while that’s great for people who can afford it, many can’t.”
Fraud is another issue international students are dealing with in Ireland.
A study by HousErasmus+ earlier this year found nearly 30 percent of international students have been defrauded while studying here through methods like fake housing advertisements on social media and being asked for a deposit in return for a key to be delivered by post.
Irish Council for International Students director Sheila Power told Irish Examiner: “Ireland is rated among the worst in Europe when it comes to the experience of international students trying to find accommodation.”