I am conscious of the challenges faced by students regarding student accommodation this year due to financial pressures and the blended learning format of the 2020/21 academic year. Throughout the last number of months my Department has been engaging with representatives from the higher education sector to address the challenges faced by students in this difficult time. My Department, in consultation with these key stakeholders will continue to monitor the situation relating to student accommodation closely.
My Department chairs an Interdepartmental Working Group on Student Accommodation. This group contains representatives from Higher Education Institutions, the Union of Students in Ireland and a number of government departments. It is intended to convene a meeting of this group shortly to discuss the accommodation issues faced by students due to COVID-19. This meeting will help determine any actions necessary in relation to student accommodation, including in relation to engagement with private accommodation providers.
I have asked our higher education institutions, where they have accommodation, to try to show flexibility in terms of its use. Several of them are doing so, while others are constrained by students having already booked accommodation. I would wish for private providers to show the same flexibility, however it is not within my remit to issue instruction in relation to the private rental market.