UEA plans to increase rents for campus housing by more than the increase in the basic maintenance grant, increasing the cost of its cheapest accommodation in University Village and apparently closing Mary Chapman Court.

A 3.4% rent increase is planned for 2015- 16, despite objections from the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS), who point out that the maintenance grant is set to rise by only 3.3% and who say that they were not consulted. The university is also preparing to close down the city centre accomodation of Mary Chapman Court and increase prices in University Village housing.

The changes, which were agreed in June apparently without the knowedlge of UUEAS, will result in an estimated profit of £3m per year, but Concrete has learned that none of this profit will be spent on university accommodation. UUEAS sources instead say that the profit will be spread across the entire university budget.

In response, UUEAS launched an attack on UEA’s accommodation policies, claiming that university management had used “selective” figures to justify its rent increases and saying that UEA has “no plans” to deal with the fact that there are not enough cheap rooms to meet demand.

Holly Staynor, Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer at UUEAS, said:

“The University promised us last year that they’d work in partnership with students to do meaningful consultation on rents – looking at the costs student face and what students can afford. Instead they’ve already decided a massive rent increase behind closed doors,and can’t answer basic questions on the role of rent costs in relation to widening participation. Worse still they’re comforting themselves about price by comparing us to the 20 of the UK’s poshest universities.

“We call on the University to open meaningful dialogue over rent setting, consider student affordability as a top priority and consider the role they play in anchoring prices in town before slapping a rent increase onto students to plug wider university budget holes”.
A university spokesperson said: “The University and the Union are currently in discussion about the rents for the next academic year. Another meeting is to be held during the first week of December when further information requested by the Union will be discussed. There are a number of alternative ways of achieving the income targets and we are seeking the views of the Union on a range of alternatives.

“Mary Chapman Court is leased from the City Council and the current lease expires in 2016. No consideration has been given to negotiations to renew or to surrender the lease. It is too early for that.

“The Union is aware that the University took a decision some years ago, with the strongest support of the Student Union of the day, not to sell its residences off to a third party in exchange for a substantial capital sum. It was agreed at the time that the University would look to raise income from the residences through the rents in order to generate a cash surplus for re-investment in facilities on campus for the benefit of students”.

The proposed fee rise would apply to students living in accommodation as of September 2015.