Earlier in the summer, University of Limerick (UL) announced they have amended their accommodation offerings, allowing some students to avail of ‘flexible accommodation’ in recognition of the reduced on-campus time they will have due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Other third level institutes have also taken the current climate into account, providing updated information for future and returning students on their accommodation websites.
For Leaving Certificate students awaiting results, the unfamiliarity of the accommodation systems in third level institutions has been a cause of concern.
Despite the closure of schools back in March, many colleges went ahead with existing accommodation application processes, which generally open in spring each year.
Universities such as UL, University College Cork (UCC) and Dublin City University (DCU) opened applications to students for on-campus accommodation earlier this year and have already conducted their lottery draws to determine which students have secured a room.
However, students who were unsuccessful in the lottery process have now been placed on a waiting list and may be contacted if another student turns down their place.
For incoming first years in UL, the waiting list will reopen during the week of September 4th to allow for students who did not enter the lottery process earlier in the year to add their names to the list.
According to the UL accommodation website: “Students who did not register for the lottery are advised to seek off-campus accommodation.”
Similarly, in UCC the lottery for on-campus rooms was held in June, but students who did not secure a room may be offered one subsequently if other students do not claim theirs.
However, those who missed the March 18th deadline for the lottery process will not be able to add their names to the waiting list.
UCC’s dedicated First Year Accommodation Placement Service will open once CAO offers have been issued.
In Galway, NUIG’s two university owned residences, Corrib and Goldcrest Villages are now fully booked according to their website but offers will be made to wait-listed students between September 15th and 17th if there are availabilities.
Students who were not already registered for the initial lottery will be able to add their names to the waiting lists from August 28th.
The tight turnaround between CAO offers, the first round of which will be released on September 11th, and the return to college at the end of September has left parents and students worrying about finding a spot in the institute they receive an offer from.
Sinn Féin TD for Mayo, Rose Conway-Walsh says it is unfair for students to be charged deposits for accommodation when they do not know what their timetables will be like.
“Students cannot be expected to give over huge sums of money until they receive a timetable from their college and can make an informed decision. For first years, this cannot happen until after they accept an offer which, for some, will be as late as September 25th.
“While there are so many unknowns, it is unfair and unjustifiable to ask students and their families to pay rent or deposits,” said Ms Conway-Walsh.
She is calling on Ministers Norma Foley and Simon Harris to clarify the situation for students starting and returning to college, adding: “I have to advise all students and their families to hold off signing any long-term leases for accommodation for the coming academic semester until we get clarity on what their actual requirements will be.”
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) vice president for campaigns, Craig McHugh is also saying that if students are in doubt, they should wait.
“Be cautious in terms of where you are going to try get accommodation. It’s a very scattered, different outlook across the country- each institute seems to be acting quite differently.
“The most important thing to do is to be cautious and think ‘Do I know what exactly is happening here?’ and if not, hold off. There’s an availability of accommodation so don’t rush into something that you could end up regretting down the line.”
Landlords are also approaching the return of students with caution, with chairman of the Irish Property Owners Association, Stephen Faughnan saying Covid-19 has caused “chaos” to the student market.
“The provision of accommodation is a business and the changes in university practices including online lectures could change students’ requirements for accommodation.
“We have been advised by some members who traditionally let to students that they have moved from the student market to other tenancies, which is likely to cause further shortages of accommodation for students.
“Property owners and their students are dealing with uncertainty and stress. Decisions have to be made by both parties under these uncertain conditions and contractual obligations have to be fulfilled.”
Students can view details regarding individual institutions accommodation protocols on the institute’s accommodation website, or go to the USI website for general information.