Overseas student enrollments surged in 2022 at Irish universities. Among them, many European students who are irritated by the need to apply for a visa now to be able to continue their studies in the United Kingdom and tuition fees which have risen sharply since Brexit. But there is a flip side to the success of Irish higher education institutions: the housing crisis.
“Ireland is like an iceberg: on the surface it looks great with great institutions to study in, but underwater there is a housing crisis,” explains Maeve Richardson on the website of the Swiss Radio Television (RTS). To the point, explains the vice-president of the National Union of Students, that she knows several foreign students forced to sleep in their car. “We don’t warn them about the situation because they are essential to fund higher education in Ireland. But we cannot continue to attract them when there is no shelter for them.”
The image of Ireland as a destination of choice for international students is directly threatened by this situation, highlighted The Irish Times, citing a survey by the Council for International Students, an organization funded by Irish universities and colleges. A total of 465 students from over 60 countries were interviewed about their housing experience since arriving in Ireland. Two-thirds mention their difficulties in finding housing that is both affordable and decent, and 10% specify that their search lasted more than three months. Among those who have accommodation, the majority are shared. Nearly 20% of respondents said they shared a room with two or more people.
An Indian student currently in postgraduate studies specifies: “We are sixteen to share a kitchen and three bathrooms. And the rent is not given.” A PhD student from Zimbabwe insists on the “enormous” stress under which students who have not been informed of the situation and who arrive in Ireland convinced that “everything will be alright”. “I have nowhere to live next week and I’m scared. I think I will go back to my country”, admits a Brazilian student.
“Our study shows that the housing crisis is hitting international students very hard, insists Laura Harmon, executive director of the Council for International Students. We must be attentive to these testimonies and remedy this situation.” The quoted study recommends a series of measures to be implemented urgently, including the construction of affordable student accommodation, more inspections for private accommodation offered for rent and information campaigns for future foreign students in Ireland.