6 July 2016

UCL rent strike ends with £1m bursary victory

UCL students’ five-month rent strike has finally ended with a £1m pledge from the university, but the rest of London’s student strikers battle on…
rent strikeCredit: UCL, Cut the Rent

After a long five months, what has been described as “the biggest student rent strike in British history” has begun to cool off, as University College London makes a pledge to help students cope with spiralling rent prices at their university halls.

You might remember that back in May we reported how many London universities were joining a protest over cripplingly high rents at university accommodation across the capital, as well as sub-standard living conditions like rat infestations.

However, this week UCL strikers were able to “declare victory” as an agreement has been reached which will see £1 million in funding being made available to help struggling students cope with rising rents.

Have you been affected by unacceptable living conditions at your university halls? We’ll show you how to  claim compensation from your university.

Why were students striking?

UCL Rent Protest

Since 2010, the cost of renting accommodation at UCL’s student halls has risen 40% (rent strikers were originally quoting the figure as a 56% rise, but UCL have now contested this). To stay at UCL’s biggest student accommodation, Ramsay Halls, will cost you at least £206 per week/ £828 a month including catering. That’s a lot of moolah!

We calculated that any student living at Ramsay Halls and receiving even the highest possible maintenance loan would be left with only £12.68 per week to live off.

UCL students aren’t the only strikers, either. University of Roehampton, Courtauld Institute of Art and Goldsmiths have also joined the protest, claiming they felt they had no choice following rising rent costs, sub-standard living conditions and unresponsive or inappropriate staff responses to accommodation complaints.

However, these other unis are yet to come to an agreement over what can be done to improve the situation.

The UCL Cut the Rent movement were also fighting for compensation for major disruption in accomodation due to building work, but this was resolved back in May with the university giving affected students 20% of their annual rent back as compensation.

The UCL agreement

Compromise

UCL Cut the Rent have called the strike a “victory” after the university came to the following agreement with rent strikers yesterday.

UCL have pledged to:

  • Spend £350,000 on accommodation bursaries for students from lower-income families during the 2016/17 academic year, and £500,000 the year after.
  • Reduce the contract length for accommodation by one week, thereby reducing rent by 2.5% a year.
  • Freezing rents on 1,000 of UCL’s cheapest rooms, which equates to 30% of their housing stock.

Sounds like a pretty decent compromise to us!

What happens now?

questions

The strike worked! They won! Woo, time to celebrate!

Well… yes and no. The success of the student rental strike is something that should be celebrated, as students have shown that change can happen if you’re willing to fight hard for it.

However, UCL Cut the Rent have warned that the strike was “just the beginning” and that “radical tactics will continue until a social rent-setting policy is implemented at the university”.

It seems that although the strikers themselves have declared this result as a victory, the fight clearly isn’t over – they’re even threatening to strike again next year if lower-income students continue to be priced out of attending a university in London.

Finding the cost of student digs just too high? Ever thought about living in a van or tent to save on rent like these guys did?

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