There are some fantastic deals to be found on student accommodation throughout the UK. But, perhaps as an inevitable side effect of the private sector taking on a lot of the business, the country as a whole remains one of the most expensive places in the world to be a student. In the UK, there are a number of student halls throughout the UK that are owned by offshore companies. This isn’t nefarious in itself, but once you look closer, a web of hidden identities and friendly tax arrangements begins to emerge.
At present, the problem seems to be limited to halls of residence, with off-campus private housing still seemingly unaffected.
There are a number of groups in the UK, for example Collegiate, who offer great student accommodation at an affordable price. This kind of off-campus private sector housing has a lot to offer students, especially those who want to have the most comfortable and luxurious experience possible. However, universities are also under an ever-increasing pressure to provide more high quality on-campus accommodation.
The companies who bid for these projects need to present low-cost options in order to win contracts. This race to the bottom has, in some cases at least, presented an opportunity for unscrupulous developers. Criminal organisations and legitimate organisations who have rogue employees or other ‘under the table’ pursuits who want to hide or launder money are using UK university halls of residence to do it.
While the cases where these fronts for criminal enterprises are, thankfully, rare, there is still an issue of overseas businesspeople using these purchases as part of complex tax manoeuvres. These individuals and organisations register their businesses in one of the many overseas British territories that are known for their lax financial regulations.
The latest research suggests that as many as 20,000 students in the UK could be renting accommodation from a business who is engaged in these practices. Unfortunately, the ethical lapses don’t stop with the finances. Many past students who have younger family members now attending university are aghast at the prices in some places. This hasn’t been helped by the overall tuition fee increase instituted a few years ago, but private ownership of essential infrastructure (accommodation in this case) does not always work out so well.
At the heart of the issue of the UK’s high student accommodation rents is the issue of unethical businesses being able to overpromise on contracts and deliver poor service for students.
What to Do?
The good news for students is that, if you want to avoid this kind of thing entirely, it is usually relatively easy to check who owns the halls of residence for your university, or any university. It should be easy at least, and that is kind of the point.
When a legitimate business is building halls of residence for UK universities, they usually want to advertise that fact. If you cannot find through 20 minutes on Google who is responsible for your university accommodation, reach out to the university themselves. Remember, it should be in their interests to make this easy for you to find.
UK student accommodation rates have been sent sky high by unscrupulous private businesses getting involved. However, the good news is that the majority of student accommodation is great. Unfortunately, it is these few bad eggs that have raised market prices everywhere.