'As a landlady, You try to make sure they're all right'

April 2, 2004

Helen Douglas (pictured right with student Ruzanna) has been a landlady for Edinburgh University for 25 years and has no doubt why she does it: for the money.

For the minimum rent established by the university, the student has the run of Ms Douglas' garden flat, with its own bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, complete with cooker, fridge-freezer and shared washing machine.

The student can be completely independent, but Ms Douglas is prepared to take on a pastoral role.

"Some of the overseas students tend to be a bit nervous to start with, although most of my students have been very self-reliant. Some of them did seem to lack friends at first, and you try to make sure they're all right.

And at exam time perhaps you felt they needed to come up for a chat," she said.

She also invites her lodgers for the occasional family meal. "But not every week. I wouldn't like that."

Her first lodgers were undergraduates, but the university suggested that the flat was particularly suitable for postgraduates, with each lodger now tending to recommend the next.

Has taking in students led to raised eyebrows from the neighbours?

"No, of course not. This is a garden flat for one person, and no one would give it a thought," Ms Douglas said.

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