750 more student beds: University of Sydney and NSW government tackle student housing crisis

29 May 2013

Hundreds more domestic and international students will be able to access affordable student housing as they pursue their university studies thanks to a decision by the NSW government to sell a decommissioned health facility in Camperdown to the University of Sydney.

The University last year expressed its interest in purchasing the Queen Mary Building - formerly a nursing accommodation site for the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital - as part of its strategy to increase available affordable student beds in and around its main campus from 2500 to 6000 by 2015. It has since been successful in a NSW government tender process.

The sale of the building to the University will enable its renovation to a student accommodation centre in 2015.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said the sale agreement was a major breakthrough in the affordable student accommodation crisis. He praised the NSW government for recognising the need for the building to be used for this purpose and partnering with him to find student accommodation solutions.

"With today's announcement the University of Sydney and the NSW government have signalled their determination to tackle the critical issue of affordable student housing in partnership. The University thanks the NSW government for recognising the urgency of the issue and being open to options to remedy it," Dr Spence said.

Dr Spence said there is clear acknowledgment across the education sector and government that suitable accommodation plays a key role in overall student satisfaction and success in their tertiary studies. government reports including the NSW International Education and Research Industry Action Plan and Education as an Export 2011/2012 also highlight the importance of affordable accommodation options to support NSW's international student market - the state's second largest export earner, which generated over $5.8 billion in 2010/2011.

The accommodation will be targeted at both international and domestic students who are seeking a greater level of independence and responsibility within proximity of the University's main campus.

The Queen Mary Building, on the corner of Grose Street and Church Street Camperdown was decommissioned by the NSW Department of Health in 2005 and was becoming neglected as it remained vacant. The building is situated in the health precinct between the University's main campus, its Nursing School and Brain and Mind Research Institute. Close to other student colleges it is a natural extension to the University's presence, offering students easy access to campus, and medical and allied health students an immediate proximity to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

"This accommodation will provide much needed affordable accommodation for both domestic and international students in a supported environment to alleviate the affordable student accommodation crisis and add a further vibrancy to the community and the developing hub of health education and research in the Missenden Rd Camperdown precinct," Dr Spence said.

"The rebirth of the Queen Mary building from its use as a nursing accommodation site to affordable student accommodation is both sensible and environmentally the correct thing to do and provides the University with a fantastic opportunity to update a landmark building that will provide our students with an affordable living experience in one of the most exciting parts of the city."

The University's concept for the accommodation includes a manager's office and approximately one residential assistant for every 25 students. Planned spaces include single rooms with large common living and study spaces, sky lounges and sky-gardens, communal kitchens that permit independent living but with higher than normal social interaction, a theatre, gym and music room.

"While our student experience is consistently rated as one of the best in Australia we can always do more," Dr Spence said. "At the University of Sydney striving to provide affordable student housing is part of our social contract with the students to ensure that they have the best possible university experience."

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Sarah Stock, 0419 278 715,