Student management

University is considering plans to build up to 300 student beds in Waterford

South East Technological University is reviewing plans to expand up to 300 student beds in Waterford as the housing crisis continues to worsen in the area.

The university (SETU) has formed a task force in recent weeks to look at ways to increase the number of purpose-built student accommodation at its main campus on Cork Road.

Early discussions focused on the possibility of building a similar number at the university’s Carlow campus, formerly known as the Carlow Institute of Technology.

Fine Gael senator John Cummins said he had been told by SETU management that they were looking at ways to increase purpose-built housing amid what is seen as the world’s worst housing crisis. serious situation faced by the third tier in the region for a generation.

“They are currently developing these plans from my engagement with them [which would see] around 300 student beds at the existing Cork Road campus,” Mr Cummins said.

“We need it. We need purpose-built student accommodation to allow our university to grow and it also has a positive impact in terms of freeing up student rental accommodation in housing estates.”

Waterford Crystal Factory

Other significant longer-term options for student accommodation in Waterford include the conversion of the former Waterford Crystal factory nearby.

Earlier this month, Higher and Further Education Minister Simon Harris confirmed talks were underway between his department and the Department of Public Expenditure to purchase the 36-acre site for use by the ‘university.

Meanwhile, a region-wide call for people to provide digs for this academic year has resulted in 457 offers of accommodation on campuses, including in Carlow and Wexford, with 330 beds occupied by students up to here.

The head of the university’s Waterford accommodation office, Jacqui O’Connor, said the use of the Student Pad website was a ‘stop-gap’ measure and the task force would consider longer-term options , while 426 beds are owned by SETU Waterford at Gift.

“Student Pad has proven to be a revelation and has filled a void in student accommodation and helped in times of crisis.

“The next step is how do we look at the permanent options, because ultimately our students want to be on campus. They want that student life experience that comes with attending the third tier.”

Hosting Strategy

A Dáil parliamentary question posed this week by TD Matt Shanahan argued that a major cause of the current crisis is the National Student Housing Strategy 2016-2024, noting that “no additional student accommodation” has been booked in Waterford “over the eight-year life of the scheme”.

Minister Simon Harris told the TD Independent he had obtained approval to allow the state to contribute to the cost of building student accommodation in return for affordable rent.

Patrick Curtin, president of the students’ union at South East Technological University on Cork Road, Waterford. Photo: Dan Linehan

Patrick Curtin, president of the students’ union at SETU Waterford, said the fear is that students “won’t last the whole semester commuting” and drop out.

“The only way to solve this crisis is to build and the government is very slow to act on this.”

Meanwhile, a decision to reject student apartments last month has been appealed by the developer to An Bord Pleanála.

The 94-bed project in Kilbarry received dozens of objections from residents and was turned down by Waterford City and County Council, who ruled it would be ‘too dominant’ “and would result in a loss of privacy for residents.

The case should be decided at the end of January.