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Team Careers360|Dec 7, 2023
NEW DELHI: Indian students abroad are facing a fresh crisis – affordable housing. After two years of covid, Indians returning to foreign universities have found that rent has gone up sharply. This is true of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, said accommodation and overseas education consultants.
Over the years that the covid pandemic lasted, classes were being held online. Offline or in-person classes resumed in 2022 and 2023 and many students are finding renting apartments and private student housing prohibitively expensive.
“I had to share accommodation with a friend – that was the first step I had to take. Next, I had to cut down on expenses such as discretionary shopping, takeaway meals, and using public transport instead of driving. I started working on campus because there were no hourly constraints on on-campus employment”, said Praveen Kumar, a second-year postgraduate student of computer programming at Lambton College, Canada.
Some students had to defer their intake because they could not find their accommodation, said Lakshmi Iyer, managing director-India of study abroad consultants SI-UK.
According to Iyer, there is a surge of students from India wanting to go overseas with greatest pressure on the UK, USA and Canada. This was the fallout of countries like Australia and New Zealand staying closed for longer and not taking students, she explained.
"Universities have built infrastructure for accommodating students but looking at the surge, it is not something which can be addressed overnight. Universities also did not foresee the wave of interest suddenly coming from students who all needed accommodation which resulted in a lot of pressure," said Iyer. Finding accommodation is now a challenge in all cities with major universities with large student populations – London,Glasgow, Manchester, York. The exit of many private landlords during the covid period when students were not studying on campus, increasing demand for the rest.
Australia, which had witnessed a decline in the number of international students over the covid period but the numbers rose again from October 2022. For Indian students too, Australia is one of the most sought-after study-abroad destinations.
Iyer emphasises planning everything and not leaving decisions related to accommodation to the last minute.
Indian students tend to go for cheaper accommodation. University accommodations typically cannot be shared with friends.
Rishi Piparaiya, also a financial advisor for overseas education candidates, stresses that the students accept the accommodation provided by the universities which although expensive, helps a student to understand their surroundings and make friends.
"I will advise the students that for the first year, they live on-campus – they should try to understand the university and also make friends – and then from the second year onwards, they move off-campus", said Piparaiya.
Piparaiya further suggests students take up some of the off-campus and on-campus jobs as per their requirements which can help them get their rent subsidised. There are several opportunities, he said, like working as a residential advisor for a firm, or with an elderly family where the students can get a place to stay for free.
India-based housing platforms like University Living, UniAcco, Halp.co, and Leverage edu are working on ways to address the issue.
"We are working on programmes and incentives for affordable, purpose-built student housing” said Sayantan Biswas, Co-founder of UniAcco. “Resolving this growing crisis necessitates a comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders.”
One of the suggestions made by the housing platforms is to secure accommodations for the entire year to reduce costs. Further, these entities or platforms have also increased their work on purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) by collaborating with universities to create more space.
“Embracing the concept of small private room clusters, we are reimagining living spaces to ensure students have access to safe and comfortable environments,” said Mayank Maheshwari, Co-founder of University Living.
Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and CEO, of Leverage Edu & Fly feels that people should be more aware of the developments in student accommodation in respective countries. They have been able to place 100 percent of students who approached them for housing.
“The problem originated from higher demand and low awareness, not low supply. A majority of them have chosen PBSAs while a good 35 percent of students have found flats and flatmates in the Leverage Edu community,” said Chaturvedi.
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