The day was a celebration, but that didn't stop us from talking about the big problem faced by most of the students at the University of Algarve who were yesterday, September 18th, at the Pavilhão Municipal da Penha, in Faro: the difficulty in finding affordable accommodation.
Student accommodation – in this case, the lack of it – was one of the central themes of the welcome session for new students at UAlg, which featured speeches by both Paulo Águas, rector of the institution, and Fábio Zacarias, president of the Association Academic (AAUAlg), such as Rogério Bacalhau, president of the Chamber of Faro.
And the consequences of the lack of affordable accommodation are well summarized by the president of AAUAlg: «Every year there are students who are placed here and do not register, because they are unable to find a place».
Despite this being a national problem, admitted by the Prime Minister himself, the lack of student accommodation «has a great expression in the Algarve».
«Here in the region we find great real estate pressure, which has made access to Higher Education very difficult, thus becoming its biggest barrier», he summarized to Sul Informação Fábio Zacarias, on the sidelines of the session.
«In 2018, a quarter [in Faro] cost between 150 and 200 euros. Today, the same room costs, on average, 325 euros,” she explained.
Rector Paulo Águas, also speaking to our newspaper, on the sidelines of the session, is equally concerned about the situation.
«What we feel is that the supply of accommodation has not increased, it has even decreased, while the number of displaced students, in turn, has not decreased, but rather increased», he states.
"Oh feedback What we have is that prices are increasing to levels that are not comparable with the increase in inflation and family incomes. This means that the effort of families to have their children displaced is increasing,” she said.
"The city of Faro It is the third most expensive place to study in the country, according to the National Student Accommodation Observatory. If the supply does not increase, but there are more students, we have to ensure that we can find better conditions, that we have better transport so that Algarve students can stay in their first home and free up homes for others who are displaced", he said, for his part. side, Fábio Zacarias.
On the part of UAlg, which currently has just over 500 beds in its own university residences, a strong commitment is being made to increase this supply, with the support of the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR).
«It is important that there are changes. We have funding at the PRR level, but it will still take a while until we have new beds. In the case of UAlg, it is expected that in 2025 we will have around 300 more beds , in addition to the current 500 », he reveals.
Paulo Águas argues that, even with this new offer on the way, what is fundamental is that the private market is “regulated in another way and I am referring to Local Accommodation.
«I have nothing against this activity, but decisions were made that, perhaps, the scope they could have had was not fully understood. I believe that if the decision-makers could go back, they would not have decided in the same way, because this took away a number of beds that were intended for students, which, naturally, increased the price of accommodation», he believes.
Fábio Zacarias also thinks that it will be necessary to go beyond new beds in residences, since “what comes under the Recovery and Resilience Plan, under the National Higher Education Student Accommodation Plan, is not enough. The 739 beds that will be ready in 2026 will not be enough, because they only correspond to 7,5% of Higher Education students in the Algarve », he said.
«We have to work in other directions, we have to arrange construction at controlled costs, so that we can accommodate more and more students and so that this does not become an impediment, because, today, accommodation is the biggest barrier in access to Higher Education», he concluded the president of AAUAlg.
Rogério Bacalhau, president of the Chamber of Faro, is very aware of the need to solve housing problems in the municipality, which, «unfortunately, is not just a problem for students, despite being also a problem for UAlg students».
«We have a series of lines to attack the housing problem. It is clear that when this problem is resolved, students will have better conditions. We don't have any specific plans for this [housing for students], but there are two business groups that are making plans to build two private university residences, both in the city of Faro", said.
«The projects are being developed and we are giving our utmost attention to ensure that they are approved as quickly as possible. We are working to ensure that there is more and more housing, because this is not just a student problem. If there are houses in quantity, it is clear that prices drop and it becomes easier», concluded the president of the Chamber of Faro.
Shortly before, in his speech, Rogério Bacalhau welcomed the new students.
«It is with the students that the university lives and, for us, it is a pride to have this university in the Algarve, because it is not just about Faro, is from the entire region. It is, without a doubt, the institution that contributes most to the development of the Algarve. I can't even imagine what it would be like if we didn't have UAlg here,” he said.
Fábio Zacarias also said he was “very happy” that the university continues “to receive more students, year after year, and knows that the demand for UAlg is increasing.
«This is very important for the development of our region and for the Algarve's contribution to productivity at national level», he considers.
«It is a good sign for UAlg, for the region, for the country and for the young people themselves and their families, that there are more students signing up», says, for his part, the rector Paulo Águas, who revealed that, in 2023/24, «there are more than 3 thousand students who will begin their training at UAlg».
«It’s natural renewal. Of these 3 thousand, more than a thousand continue their studies, with master's and doctorate degrees. The remainder, which are more than two thousand, arrive at Higher Education for the first time, mainly in what we call the initial training of the 1st cycle or integrated master's degrees, but also in the Professional Higher Technical Courses», he listed.
After three atypical years, in which there was an unusual number of candidates for Higher Education in Portugal, this year «there was a slight decrease in applications, at national level. However, the number of places placed was roughly the same as last year. We had, in the 1st phase, 37 fewer placed than last year, but we ended up having more registered», concluded Paulo Águas.
In addition to the interventions of the three speakers, the session featured performances by Versus Tuna and the Algarve singer-songwriter Marta Lima. During the session, certificates were also awarded to students awarded Sports Merit Scholarships in 2022/2023.
Photos: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação