International students in the UK have been hit by a severe housing crisis, with many forced to accept unsuitable living conditions amid rising rents and expensive university accommodation.
Students from countries like India and Bangladesh said trying to find an affordable home in London was extremely difficult because they do not have the references and payslips needed to secure a home, the BBC reported.
Nazmush Shahadat, who arrived in London from Bangladesh to study law, ended up sharing a two-bedroom flat with 20 other men as he found university accommodation too expensive and couldn’t find a house to live in.
“I never expected to live in a place like that — I still have my scars,” he told BBC.
“The first couple of months, I couldn’t video call my family because I didn’t want them to see how I am living — that’s sad,” he said.
Shahadat added that he lived in a place where multiple bunk beds were crammed into a room and shift workers came and went, and he was often bitten by bed bugs, making it impossible for him to sleep.
With the rents in the UK going up by more than eight per cent overall this year compared with 2022-23, according to a Cushman & Wakefield survey, many foreign students are struggling to find affordable rooms.
The survey further said that fewer than one in 10 beds in major university cities are now affordable to the average student in receipt of maintenance loans and grants.
The UK is consistently increasing in popularity among international students with 679,970 international students pursuing their degrees in the country, according to 2021/2022 statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
Numbering more than 120,000, Indian students make up among the largest international student communities in the UK.
Rashavh Kaushik from India, who will also be studying law this year, will be sharing a bedroom with another student.
For that arrangement, they’ve had to pay 16,000 pounds upfront and have had to get a guarantor to secure a place.
“It’s costly for us,” he told BBC.
“Universities are trying to recruit more and more international students partly because they pay a lot higher fees, but it means that some universities are expanding at a rate much higher than the local housing stock can deal with,” Nehaal Bajwa, from the National Union of Students (NUS), said.
Stating that international students are vulnerable to financial strain, the NUS has been calling for rent controls for students.
“You’re kind of open to exploitation because you don’t know your rights… Homelessness is a real threat,” Bajwa told BBC.
She earlier told news website Open Democracy that landlords ask overseas students to either pay six months’ rent upfront, or a guarantor/reference in the UK, earning 84,000 pounds.
“The current pressure on the housing market in the UK are being felt across society — including by students, and universities are working to ease this wherever possible,” Universities UK said in a statement.
The average private sector rent outside London has gone up to more than 7,600 pounds a year, which accounts for 77 per cent of the maximum student maintenance loan allowance, a Guardian report said.
“Universities are experienced in supporting students, and while we strongly recommend that students organise housing before travelling to the UK, any student facing difficulty should contact their university accommodation team as soon as possible,” Universities UK added.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – IANS)