A student rent strike just won £1.5m from their university

Students at UCL have won a historic victory, with a huge concession from management.. Striking works.

Rent-striking students at UCL are celebrating a historic £1.5m victory today, after the university announced £1.2m in new housing bursaries for less well off students – plus a partial freeze in rent at student accommodation worth £250,000.

Over 200 students at the university have been on ‘rent strike’ – refusing to pay for their halls – for over five months, citing unaffordable prices which are limiting access to the university amongst less well off students.

“Students at UCL have won a 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.”

Said Shelly Asquith, former Vice President of the NUS and supporter of the campaign.

The university announced today, in direct response to the ongoing protests and rent strikes, that it would invest £1.2m over the next two years in bursaries for students in need of financial support’ – a vast increase on the previous level.

The university also conceded a rent freeze across 1,200 rooms in student halls, representing a saving to students of over £250,000; and has agreed to halve the deposit for student halls from £500 to £250.

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.”

UCL, mirroring the worst aspects of the London rental market, has increased student rent by over 48 per cent since 2009. In 2016 the university made a surplus of £15m on its student accommodation.

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.”

The rent strike campaign won previous victories in 2016, when UCL announced concessions worth around £850,000.

‘Rent is everyone’s problem’, a statement for the campaign says. A recent study by Shelter found 53% of private tenants struggle to pay rent; in London 60% of tenants’ total income is spent on rent alone. A spokesperson added:

“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.”

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