The University of Edinburgh’s Scandi-bar, designed to provide students with additional hospitality space during the pandemic, was recently revealed to have cost £416,361.60 to build despite being open for only 61 days.
The project’s price tag has been at the centre of a dispute between the university, its students, and local businesses, who have condemned the building of the bar as an inappropriate use of funds.
Built in September 2020 in Bristo Square and opening in October 2020, the double story catered lodge was one of a number of venues built by the university that formed ‘student villages’ across its campus.
The Student Village was designed to increase the space available for students to socialise in during the pandemic when available space within the university had been reduced due to coronavirus restrictions.
However, the building of the Scandi-bar was met with complaints that prompted Edinburgh Live to investigate the true cost of its construction and demand a breakdown of how many days the bar was able to operate under the government’s coronavirus guidance.
The Freedom of Information request lodged by Edinburgh Live revealed that the Scandi-bar cost £6,825.60 per day to operate when open for students.
Included in this figure was the toilet block facility, security, and statutory consents.
The high cost of the Scandi-bar has caused outrage amongst the student population, whose tuition fees were not reduced by the university when studying last year, despite the majority of students being denied in-person teaching.
Whilst the university did offer rent pauses to students who were unable to return to Edinburgh during the pandemic, and lease breaks to those who chose not to stay in university-managed accommodation during term-time, the university’s choice to spend money on the Scandi-bar and not on reimbursing students has led to frustration.
Kaeden Dowler, a second year Spanish and Business student at the University of Edinburgh, told The Student:
“I got more out of A-Levels than I did online lectures last year. The Scandi-bar was not a good use of money, especially as it was temporary.
“They should have used that money to improve remote learning, more so because we paid the full price for tuition.”
Study fury over the construction peaked in March 2021, when students from the Rent Justice Edinburgh campaign held a demonstration at the Student Village, locking themselves inside the then closed Scandi-bar.
Luisa Hutchinson, a first-year History of Art student studying at the University of Edinburgh at the time, told The Student that she did not know the Scandi-bar had even been constructed during her first year at the university.
Believing that the Scandi-bar failed in its mission to provide support to students throughout the pandemic, Luisa added that the money would have been better spent on “mental health resources during the really tough lockdowns.”
The Student contacted the University of Edinburgh for a statement but received no reply.