Two Thirds Of University Students Say They’re Worried About Affording Rent As Strikes Continue At 50 UK Campuses
Student rent strikers holding a demo in Bristol in 2019 (Twitter/rentstrikenow)
A new survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) has revealed that 69% of student renters are worried about their financial situation, while 22% say they've struggled to pay rent within the last four months.
It comes as student groups at as many as 50 universities across the UK are withholding rent to university providers in a bid to secure refunds for accommodation left unusable amid the pandemic.
Coordinators of the network claim that 15,000 students have already agreed to join action during January, with many young people unable to return to their halls of residence due to the nationwide lockdown.
Ben McGowan, one of the organisers of the strike action, told Sky News it was “abundantly clear” that universities and the government had “put profit first and students second”.
“Any idea that universities and the government have any regard for student welfare is a complete and utter lie, and one they're not doing very well at hiding that at the moment,” he said.
The University of Manchester student added that he believes “there is a role for the government to play” in rectifying the situation by “intervening and supporting” universities.
He also dismissed concerns about the impact rebates could have on university finances, claiming: “The effect of rent cuts would have on their budgets is an incredibly small amount.
“And we know that [universities] have been exploiting students for decades and charging exorbitant rents well above the rates of pay outside because they know they have a monopoly on that first year accommodation.”
Around half of all students at university reside in rented accommodation, either privately-run or owned by the institution, while a third say they don’t believe they can end their tenancy agreement early.
There are already signs that many students are reconsidering their living arrangements and turning away from on-campus housing, with the proportion of students living with parents rising from 21% to 30% since September.
Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, NUS Vice-president for higher education, said the latest stats were a sign that “students deserve better”, and accused the government of having a “disregard” for the situation.
“We need rent rebates immediately to ensure that students are not out of pocket for rent from properties they are not living in,” she said.
The NUS has backed calls for students to get rent rebates and easy exits from accommodation tenancy agreements.
It has also campaigned for “no detriment” policies — aimed at ensuring final grades aren’t unfairly impacted by the pandemic — are reintroduced to reflect the current situation.
On Monday, student union presidents at 22 Russell Group universities wrote to the group urging them to reverse their decision not to implement such “safety net” measures.