UCL student protestors argue "extortionate" rents fund plans for more unaffordable housing at the university / Sarah Benamar

More than 1,000 students are said to have withheld payments at universities across London last year in 'the largest student rent strike in British history'

The National Union of Students (NUS) has pledged its "full support" to student rent strikes, as residents continue to protest against "extortionate fees" for a third consecutive year.

Despite last year’s “victory”, which saw University College London (UCL) freeze and reduce rent for its lowest priced rooms, as well as offering £350,000 to fund accommodation bursaries, the NUS argues that the university is still not meeting its quota for affordable housing.

The NUS has a clear policy on what they constitute to be a fair and affordable rent: 25 per cent of all beds should be offered at 50 per cent of the maximum student finance loan amount. 

According to the Accommodation Costs Survey, only 0.8 per cent of the accommodation offered by UCL can be considered affordable. 

In an open letter published on the NUS website, NUS President Malia Bouattia said she would be contacting UCL management to “re-affirm NUS support of the students taking action and calling on them to co-operate, provide affordable halls and ensure fair access for every student.” 

The NUS supported students last year during the ‘largest rent strike in British history’, where more than 1,000 students from the University of Roehampton, Goldsmiths, UCL, and the Courtauld Institute of Art withheld their rent in protests against what they called the “soaring” cost of university accommodation.

Last month UCL Cut the Rent campaign group announced another150 students were already embarking on this year's rent strike, following the “failure” of UCL management to meet the campaign’s latest demands of a 10 per cent rent reduction across all university-owned accommodation.

The group said a petition calling for this reduction was signed by more than 500 students, but was rejected by UCL management in December last year. 

Ms Bouattia said: “The sky-high cost of rents for students in halls is unacceptable. Extortionate rents, coupled with course fees and spiralling living costs prevents working class students from attending university altogether. This cannot go on.” 

“I urge more tenants at UCL to join the campaign, and will continue to offer advice and support to any student who may require it. 

The NUS leader highlighted Birmingham, Sussex and Warwick as just a handful of the universities that have won their cases after engaging in rent strikes in the past.

She added: “We will not tolerate any attempts by UCL management to bully students into leaving the strike – instead we ask them to resolve it as soon as possible by engaging with the demands.”

A UCL spokesperson said: “UCL is committed to keeping rents as low as possible for its residents in Halls. We currently offer some of the cheapest accommodation in central London when compared to equivalent London institutions and private sector accommodation.

"We already comply with NUS’s recommended fair rent structures which would see a minimum of 25 per cent of all bed spaces charged at 50 per cent of a student loan to ensure access for low income students."