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NUS to support nationwide student rent strikes amid costly university accommodation debate

More than 1,000 students have already withheld payments at universities across London this year in 'the largest student rent strike in British history'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Wednesday 24 August 2016 16:01
Comments
Students from UCL take part in a rent strike earlier this year
Students from UCL take part in a rent strike earlier this year

The National Union of Students (NUS) has pledged to lend its support to nationwide student rent strikes as the debate over costly university accommodation rages on.

In the new academic year, thousands of students are expected to go on rent strikes in protest, and NUS has confirmed it will be mobilising students to take action.

As the cost of living and student debt levels rise, NUS said universities are continuing to raise rent prices and privatise halls, a move which is only piling more financial pressure on students. According to the Sutton Trust, graduates in England are leaving university with debt levels higher than any of their anglophone counterparts.

With maintenance grants having now having been cut by the Government - and replaced with loans instead - NUS said it believes the demand for affordable student housing is only growing, and said it wants to see institutions take “a social approach” to rent setting, with full consultation with the student body as part of its campaign for affordable accommodation.

NUS’s recommended fair rent structures 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.

The news has come after more than 1,000 students withheld their rent payments at universities across London earlier this year in what was labelled as “the largest student rent strike in British history.” Strikers from University College London (UCL) finally declared victory in June, winning rent freezes and concessions worth over £1 million.

A recent NUS report, Double Jeopardy, showed 60 per cent of graduates who paid £9,000 fees also have consumer debts averaging £2,600 - in addition to their student debts. With a three-year undergraduate degree leaving students borrowing as much as £53,000, students are facing “a lifetime of debt and precarious employment,” said the union.

The report also revealed almost almost half of the group of graduates have been forced to move back in with their parents as they scramble to save money.

Activists from UCL’s Cut the Rent campaign and the Radical Housing Network will now be hosting a weekend rent strike training event from 16 to 18 September which will include a series of workshops designed to advance university rent strikes.

Shelly Asquith, NUS deputy president, described how the decision to strike over rent “is never taken lightly.” She added: “It reflects the severity of the situation students now find themselves in. The fact so many are now involved in political action, at personal risk, demonstrates a collective hope of bringing about change for the benefit of all students.”

Asquith continued: “We demand an end to the exploitative profits from university accommodation. We fully support the actions of rent strikers, and urge universities to urgently engage in negotiations to ensure future rates are set at a level which students can afford to pay.”

Ben Beach, Radical Housing Network member, echoed Asquith’s comments and said it is becoming increasingly clear rent strikes will form “a vital part of resistance” to the housing crisis at a time many students find themselves “trapped in poverty” due to the rising costs of housing.

Anabel Bennett, UCL Cut the Rent campaigner, added how UCL’s action has shown rent strikes are “a highly effective tactic” that can be replicated at other universities across the country. She said: “The weekender is going to be an amazing opportunity to build, develop, and sustain rent strikes nationwide.”

Visit the Rent Strike // Weekender Facebook page for more information, or email rentstrikeweekender@gmail.com

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