Cornwall: Students consider camping as they struggle to find university accommodation

Some students in Falmouth say they are so desperate to find somewhere to live they are considering camping when term starts in a couple of weeks. 

Around 100 students returning after the summer break to Falmouth University and Exeter's Penryn campus have nowhere to stay. 

The universities have said they are doing all they can to help, but the shortage appears to be a reflection of the housing crisis across the South West.

Grace Papenfus is a second year English student who studies at the Penryn campus at Exeter University. She spent most of her first year studying from home in Devon, with coronavirus restrictions meaning she only lived in her student house for a couple of months.

Grace Papenfus is going into her second year at Exeter's Penryn campus. Credit: ITV West Country

Gracie said she was excited when she was told teaching would be face to face this September but with only a few months to look, she has found it impossible to find a room. 

She said: "Seeing as I can't do online study, is basically either to commute, I live in Devon so it's a two-hour drive.

"Or buying a bigger car and putting a mattress in the back and just finding a campsite or something like that.

"I feel like I should be excited to go back, but actually I'm just feeling quite panicked and sad about the whole thing." 

Around 6,000 students study at Exeter's Penryn campus. Credit: ITV West Country

A spokesperson for the University of Exeter said: "It has been a particularly challenging period for private student accommodation availability and the university’s accommodation team is working tirelessly to assist any student with accommodation needs ahead of the new academic year."

Lewis Haughton Wills Lettings Agency in Penryn had 150 student properties up for grabs this year which were all taken by the end of January.

Lettings agent Rhiannon Fraser told ITV News: "Two years ago there were more than enough to go around. This year there isn't.

Lettings agent Rhiannon Fraser says demand for student properties has been extremely high this year. Credit: ITV West Country

"You've got article four in Falmouth, so properties can't just be bought up from residential and changed to student houses.

"Obviously they can't continue to accept numbers when there isn't sufficient accommodation."

Issie Swanborough is a second year student at Falmouth University. She has only just managed to find somewhere to live despite starting her search in January.

She said: "It was really disheartening because, anytime that I found somewhere, it would either unavailable or they didn't accept students or the booking list was full or something.

"There was always something wrong and it really gets to you. And it was just really really stressful."

Issie Swanborough is going into her a second year student at Falmouth University. Credit: ITV West Country

In a statement Falmouth University said: "We are pleased to confirm that all Falmouth University’s first-year students have been offered a bed in university-owned or managed accommodation this year.

"However, there are challenges in the private rented sector locally that are affecting a number of returning students or students who don’t wish to live in student halls and who can’t find suitable housing.

"The housing crisis in Falmouth reflects that which is being seen across Cornwall, which is being worsened by the UK holiday boom, the increase in holiday rentals reducing overall stock, as well as the demand for properties from people relocating. 

"Students affected can access accommodation support via the Accommodation Service and academic teams, where dedicated staff are supporting individuals to find solutions locally where possible and ensure they can continue their academic journey."