WHENEVER one of Oxford's universities wants to build a new student accommodation block, it's often claimed this will reduce the number of students living in private rented houses.

But objectors to student flats cry foul and say that the universities' plans will only lead to a growth in the number of students: with more in university digs alongside those renting from private landlords.

Who is right? And who is wrong?

ALSO READ: GP hits out at Matt Hancock over cancelled second vaccines

The Oxford Mail fact checked the claims, and official monitoring data suggests it is the universities.

How do we know?

Both Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University have to share their annual student numbers with Oxford City Council once a year.

This includes those in the universities' own accommodation and in the private rented sector: houses which could also be used for other kinds of tenants instead.

Both of them are currently required by local planning regulations to have a limited number of students living in private rented accommodation.

What's happening at Oxford University?

According to the data, Oxford University has reduced its number of students in the private rented sector by several thousand over the last few years.

And the different constituent colleges which make up the University have been building new accommodation blocks.

It is currently below its threshold of 2,500 students in private rentals.

Each year, the university calculates how many students are in need of accommodation.

For example, there were a total of 24,510 studying at Oxford University in December 2019.

But out of them, 18,413 needed accommodation after excluding students who are also members of staff,those studying abroad, and several other groups.

The university was able to provide 16,299 student rooms, meaning the remaining 2,114 students had to find private rented homes.

That has not always been the case however.

In December 2018, there were 2,703 in private housing, in 2017 it was above the threshold at 3,508, in 2016 it was at 2,777, and in 2015 it was at 2,932.

And the university's colleges are still building new accommodation, with the newest being plans by Brasenose College to refurbish Frewin Quad off New Inn Hall Street, and St Peter's College's plans for a four-storey block opposite Oxford castle.

Oxford Mail:

READ all about these new student halls here

What's happening at Oxford Brookes University?

Meanwhile, Oxford Brookes numbers in the private rented sector have remained steady, and it is now slightly under the current 4,000 threshold.

Brookes makes similar calculations about its student population to Oxford University.

In December 2019, it had 16,673 students in attendance, 9,759 of whom needed accommodation.

Brookes was able to provide 5,914 accommodation spaces, meaning 3,845 students were in the private rented sector.

It used to be higher: There were 4,079 Brookes students in private accommodation in 2018, 4,089 in 2017, 4,180 in 2016, and 3,747 in 2015.

A spokesperson for Oxford Brookes University said: “While overall student numbers at Oxford Brookes have remained static in recent years, the demand for accommodation in Oxford has increased due to a changing student profile.

"The provision of new accommodation is important in our commitment to meeting the council’s threshold for students living in the community and in replacing older rooms.

“Oxford Brookes will continue to work with the council and the local community to ensure it provides appropriate levels of student accommodation and to help to reduce pressure on local housing supply.”

A new student halls run by a private company also helped reduce overall numbers in need of place to stay at Brookes by 234.

And the university also has plans to increase rooms at Clive Booth Student Village from 1,300 up to 1,800 which could reduce the number in private rentals.

READ about the plans for the student village here

The future

Both universities are set to have their thresholds for students in private rented houses changed in the future.

While Oxford University is set to see its limit reduced to 1,500, Oxford Brookes will have its limit increased to 4,500.