St Andrews University tells Fife councillor to ‘get her facts straight’ after housing criticism

The university has hit back at the councillor's comments
The university has hit back at the councillor's comments

The University of St Andrews has hit back at a councillor who claimed it was failing in its social and moral responsibilites to house its students.

East Neuk councillor Linda Holt, the Conservatives housing spokesperson, criticised the university for leaving the town to look after a majority of its students.

Cllr Linda Holt

Cllr Linda Holt

She said this was displacing families and people who work in St Andrews, creating unbalanced, unsustainable communities.

However, the university has responded by claiming that Cllr Holt has “a well-known personal animus towards the university” and that claims she makes about the university and its students have been consistently false.

Cllr Holt said: “Students in St Andrews have more than doubled in the last 20 years, numbering 10,330 to 7000 local residents. Yet the university only provides 40 per cent of its students with housing, leaving more than 6000 to find their own accommodation in the town.”

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She said this had resulted in buy-to-let landlords snapping up former council houses and social housing, pushing up prices and displacing families and working people and causing school rolls to plummet.

“This is a problem created by the university admitting more students than it can house and it is a problem only the University can solve - by providing affordable, purpose-built halls of residence.

“The university has never disclosed its medium and long term plans for expanding student numbers, let alone a strategy for accommodating them.

“Instead the University has treated the town as a dormitory.”

She added: “It’s no surprise that ‘Town and Gown’ relations are at an all time low, but at this rate, they soon won’t be a problem any more as there will be no ‘Town’ left for ‘Gown’ to relate to.”

The university blasted her comments.

A spokesman said: “We do not have 10,330 students. Our current headcount is 9,300.

“Our plans for growth have been available online in our current Strategic Plan for over three years.

“We are mystified how anyone could argue that our rescue of the Byre Theatre, investment in new sports, health and music facilities with community access, and our partnership with Fife Council to ensure provision of the new Madras School amount to treating St Andrews as a dormitory town?

“That is a frankly ridiculous and offensive claim from a representative of the Conservative Party.

“We house substantially more than 4000 students and are currently building an additional 900 beds as part of a £70 million investment.

“Councillor Holt should check her facts before attacking a local employer, and we would be pleased to meet with her to ensure she has her facts straight in future.

“There are and will continue to be strongly held differences of opinion on the best way to tackle St Andrews’ complex housing challenges, but deliberately misrepresenting the facts is irresponsible and helps no-one.”