International students sleeping rough on campuses

The back of a student's head
Some students have been sleeping in libraries and 24-hour study areas [BBC]

International students in Wales have been sleeping rough on campuses after struggling to find housing.

Students have reportedly struggled to find affordable accommodation near to universities, meaning they travel to campus for lectures and sleep in university buildings overnight.

Nida Ambreen of Bangor University’s Students' Union said some regularly slept in the university’s 24-hour study space to save on commuting costs.

Universities Wales said it "would encourage any students facing difficulty to talk to their institution".

Ms Ambreen said postgraduate international students were particularly affected as they often came with their families and were not eligible for university housing.

The international students’ officer added: "Most of the housing that’s available in Bangor is students-only, so people are now living in Manchester or Liverpool."

She said students slept overnight on the fifth floor of the Pontio University building on campus to attend classes in Bangor over the couple of days when they had them.

Nida Ambreen
Nida Ambreen said international students struggled to find accommodation in Bangor [BBC]

"Students are coming from Liverpool and Manchester and then taking their classes on, for example, Mondays and then staying overnight and then on Tuesday they are taking classes and then going back to their accommodation again," said Ms Ambreen.

"At the university we offer an accommodation where people can get in £20 to £25 per night but, again, if students are living away from Bangor, it’s an additional cost to them."

The students' union opened a room last month with microwaves and kettles to give students a space to prepare meals.

There are 20,920 non-EU international students studying in Wales, according to latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Welsh universities are aiming to increase that number as international students can be charged up to four times the amount that domestic students pay.

The issue of international students facing hardship and the information they were given about studying in Wales before coming here was raised in the Senedd last year.

Patience Otaigbe studies project management at the University of South Wales and came to Wales with her partner and two children.

She said her family had to live in a shared house for seven months until they could find suitable accommodation – which they did this week.

While she could afford the rental prices on offer, landlords would not accept her applications because she had children.

She added: "I never saw this coming. I felt that if I had my money, I should have been able to get accommodation for me and my family."

A student making a meal in a microwave
Bangor University's students' union has a place to prepare meals [BBC]

Member of the Senedd Sioned Williams said she had seen cases in her constituency.

She said: "What they do sometimes is have accommodation quite a long way from campus, transport costs are very prohibitive and so what they do when they do to campus, they sort of stay a few days, sleeping in inappropriate places and then go back to their accommodation because they can’t afford to live locally."

Ms Williams also said that international students often came over with the impression that university accommodation would be available for their family too.

She added: "There was a female student who came over with two small children and her husband and was sitting in Swansea Bus Station - alone and cold - not knowing where to turn."

The issue was addressed by the university once Ms Williams raised it, but she said this highlighted the fact there was often a lack of communication between universities and international students about what to expect.

The BAME Mental Health Service, which supports international students in Swansea, said it had been inundated with requests for help.

Alfred Oyekoya said: "Some estate agents have what I call unreasonable expectations, for instance asking someone who wants to rent an accommodation for six months of payslips... where is that going to come from when they are new in the country?

"So even when people can afford their rent for the whole year, they cannot get the accommodation."

Food parcels being prepared for international students
The BAME Mental Health Service said it sends food parcels to international students [BBC]

Bangor University said it had a support office that helped international students with every aspect of life, including "guidance on available accommodation" and welfare issues concerning their families.

Swansea University said it was "saddened by any reports of students staying in inappropriate or unsuitable spaces".

It said it was committed to providing comprehensive support and guidance to ensure all international students had access to suitable accommodation.

The University of South Wales said that it was concerned to hear about these individual cases and that international students are informed of the high demand for private sector accommodation in the area, particularly for those with dependants and families, and the increase in costs, before they travel.

The UK government said it was "fully focused on striking the right balance between acting decisively to bring down net migration and attracting the best and brightest students to study at our universities".