STUDENT representatives in Cork have taken to the streets in a sleep-out in front of Dáil Éireann to highlight the student accommodation crisis that is now at “breaking point”.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and student representatives will sleep out overnight, kicking off the ‘No Keys, No Degrees’ campaign calling on government to urgently tackle the issue of student accommodation.
USI President, Clare Austick said that after years of inaction and the pandemic, the situation is “an absolute mess”.
Munster Technological University (MTU) Students’ Union (SU) President, Aisling O’Mahony described students as being “at their wits end” when it comes to accommodation.
Working as an SU representative for the past three years, she said the issue of accommodation comes up each year.
“It’s a historical issue. Every year it is getting worse and worse. Accommodation that might have been on the middle ground with regards pricing is now creeping up every single year.”
Aisling is attending the protest “in solidarity with students who cannot afford the current learning environment that they are put in today”.
“The government is making it very hard for students to get degrees,” she said.
University College Cork (UCC) SU President Asha Woodhouse said that students are still struggling to source accommodation for the current academic year.
“We still get emails off students,” she said.
“We’re getting queries off students now and they’re sleeping on a couch, [asking] is there anything we can do to help; they’re staying in a hostel - where can they go, and it’s just very hard for people to find somewhere.”
She believes the situation is now at “a critical point”.
“I’ve been elected to do a job and represent people and ensure that students’ issues are heard and to improve their welfare and educational experience and having a key to your own room is a critical part of that.”
Following the protest, Asha is hoping for immediate action from government to tackle the issue.
Through the campaign, USI and SUs are calling for funding and a plan to develop more affordable Purpose-Built Student Accommodation, rent controls, legislation and other necessary action to retain student accommodation beds and for no new course places without additional living spaces.