£££ UCL CUT THE RENT WINS MILLIONS £££
After 5 month long rent strike, UCL-CTR has won £1.49 MILLION from UCL Accommodation:
This makes a total of
Extortionate rents are a form of social cleansing, which prevent less privileged students accessing higher education.
In the face of rising student debt and the scrapping of maintenance grants, this win comes as a significant step in the right direction and an indicator that students will not tolerate the marketisation of their education.
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After a five-month long rent strike by 200 students, UCL Cut the Rent have accepted University College London’s offer of £600,000 to fund accommodation bursaries for students in need of financial support in the 2017/18 academic year and a partial rent freeze. A further £600,000 is pledged for the following year (2018/19). This win has significantly improved upon last year’s campaign that won a £350,000 accommodation bursary for 2016/17 students.
This will be a progressive bursary that will extend beyond the traditional and limited means-testing standards to include EU and international students as well as students from higher-income backgrounds struggling to make ends meet due to circumstances such as familial estrangement. UCL Accommodation, UCLU and UCL Cut the Rent (UCL-CTR) will work together in the allocation of this bursary.
UCL Accommodation has pledged a further £600,000 for 2018/19, with an agreed amount of this to be reallocated into a rent cut of halls for said year and beyond. UCL-CTR, UCLU and UCL Accommodation will begin working on this process in Summer 2017.
UCL Accommodation has also conceded a rent freeze for 2017/18 across 1,224 rooms, approximately £258,000. (1)
Combined with the concessions won by last year’s rent strike, this package secures a total of over £1.49 million.(2)
The agreement also states that the accommodation deposit will be halved to £250 and the £25 fine imposed upon this year’s rent strikers waived.
UCL Cut the Rent and UCL Accommodation are committed to sign a charter detailing future improvements. This charter is signed with a view to bettering overall student welfare in halls and communicating UCL’s duty of care to students.
Jack Kershaw, a first-year student at UCL, said: “I went on rent strike so that in future a wider range of students can study at UCL. The Head of UCL Estates has stated in the past that ‘some students simply can’t afford to live in London’. This is blatant social cleansing. The only reason the university froze rents and started to offer an accommodation bursary last year was due to the rent strike. This shows that UCL management need to be pressured by their own students into taking action.”
Harvi Chera, a first-year BAME student at UCL, said: “High and ever-increasing rents disproportionately prevent BAME and inner city students from going into or continuing higher education. I felt compelled to stop this ethnic cleansing happening at my university, an institution in the diverse city of London where I was born and now study.”
Last week’s Office for Fair Access report stated that non-continuation rate at university for black students is 1.5 times higher than other students, and the gap between non-continuation rate for the most advantaged and disadvantaged students has extended (8.8% of the most disadvantaged students dropped out of university in 2014/15, up from 8.2%, compared to just 5% of the most advantaged students dropping out). (3)
Shelly Asquith, Former Vice President of NUS, said: “Students at UCL have won an historic victory, with a huge concession from management. By withholding their rent, students have dealt a huge blow to for-profit education; forcing UCL to lower rents and offer bursaries to help with costs. UCL Cut the Rent played a blinder during negotiations, and this three year action has resulted in concessions worth millions of pounds. NUS now expects this to be replicated elsewhere, and will continue to support students on rent strike.”
This announcement follows a significant victory at Goldsmiths, University of London earlier this academic year, where hall rents were cut by 35% – amongst other concessions – as a direct result of last year’s rent strike.(4)
Between 2009 and 2016, UCL has increased the rent by 48.4%, yielding an annual surplus of £15.56m in 2015/16.(5) UCL Cut the Rent asserts that these are tuition fee-increases by stealth, which in a context of stagnant student incomes, rising tuition fees, scrapping of Maintenance Grants and abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) further undermines access to education for low-income.
Becka Hudson of the Radical Housing Network, said: “The victory of UCL students has already strengthened the housing movement as a whole. The potential for the tactic to be adopted by others, to push back against untrammelled rents, housing insecurity, awful conditions and escalating dispossession and to win better conditions, cuts or caps on rent and more is huge.”
Rent is everyone’s problem: a recent study by Shelter found 53% of private tenants struggle to pay rent (6); in London 60% of tenants’ total income is spent on rent alone (7). Whilst this dispute is focused around rents in University accommodation, UCL Cut the Rent wish to be clear they stand in full support with wider campaigns for housing justice, which relate to the housing crisis and other critical issues in social housing.
Link to the media files: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dfY-vj-LZSvjgZnAWbilgdx-7ClfIyKoTQ55zID6eHE/edit?usp=sharing
UCL-CTR is a student campaign group founded in 2014 that uses direct action through rent striking to negotiate lower rents. It is part of a wider movement of Rent Strike groups in universities across the U.K.
For more information see facebook.com/uclcuttherent and @rentcutUCL on Twitter.
Calculation made on the average rent of rooms at UCL at £180 pw
It was agreed in July 2016 that £350,000 would be made available in bursaries to incoming students 2016/17 and at least £350,000 for 2017/18. £500,000 was also conceded to students in compensation over living conditions. The agreement made on 03/07/17 adds a further £250,000 to the 2017/18 amount, combined with a matching £600,000 for 2018/19.