UL adopts Airbnb-style system for accommodation as students face staggered return

Second, third, fourth and post grad students will only be offered 'flexible accommodation' for the weeks they are scheduled for on-campus classes.

The annual accommodation dash for student will be quite different this year with few returning to campuses around the country due to Covid-19 restrictions.

While Government guidelines highlighted the need for social distancing in classrooms and student accommodation, third-level institutes have been largely free to decide what their return to classes would look like.

University of Limerick (UL) has confirmed that incoming first year students will have on-campus classes once every three weeks, while second, third, fourth and post-graduate students will attend classes once every four weeks.

The autumn semester is due to commence on September 28th, with first year students being the first to arrive in UL, while other year groups will return to classes virtually.

Similar set-ups will be introduced at other third-level colleges, raising the issue of what students will do for accommodation if they are to be spending so little time on campus.

UL will be opening their campus accommodation, with beds being made available to all returning year groups.

Second, third, fourth and post graduate students will also be offered 'flexible accommodation' allowing them to book one of 1,600 ensuite rooms available for the three weeks they are required to be on campus this semester.

Four hundred beds will be released to each year group from second year to post graduate.

The flexible accommodation has been described as an ‘Airbnb-style' system, with students having to completely vacate the room - including all their personal belongings - on the Friday of their stay to allow for the room to be cleaned before the arrival of another student on the Sunday.

The cost of the three-week package is €750, covering the cost of utilities, Wifi and linens and will also give the student access to UL’s sport facilities.

UL have said that they are experiencing high demand for both whole semester and flexible accommodation options and are expecting to be at full capacity for the autumn semester.

In the capital

In Dublin, campuses are also preparing to welcome back their students, as University College Dublin and Trinity College are also opting to reopen their on-campus residences.

Classes in both UCD and Trinity will be held both online and in-person, with UCD outlining larger lectures will be held virtually while smaller tutorials and workshops where social distancing can be maintained will be held on-campus.

UCD has said all beds will be filled as normal, however communal recreational spaces will be closed.

While attending as many classes on-campus as possible is being recommended by UCD, students who are unable to attend due to travel restrictions or health reasons will be accommodated.

It is excepted each apartment with be treated as one ‘pod’, so if one student catches the virus, all housemates will also have to quarantine as per public health guidelines.

Although accommodation provided by third-level institutes will be monitored in line with their wider Covid-19 measures, implementing public health guidelines will be the responsibly of the students in the case of private rental agreements.

While institutions tend to act similarly, they don’t act identically.

Union of Students in Ireland (USI) vice president for campaigns, Craig McHugh says student should be wary before signing any accommodation deals.

“Our overall advice is to exercise caution and to pay attention to the developing public health advice and the guidelines set out by institutions.

“While institutions tend to act similarly, they don’t act identically, so just keep an eye on what the individual institution’s plans are,” Mr McHugh added.

“Be cautious in terms of where you are going to try get accommodation. If you are trying to accommodation in the private market, make sure that you are not being ripped off and make sure you have a contract.

“Be aware that there is not a lot to protect you, so if you sign up to a nine month contract, you are roped into that for nine months, which may not be preferable given the uncertainty of the current situation.”