A union officer will submit a proposal to the first union council of the year threatening to encourage rent strikes amongst students living in UEA campus accommodation. The proposal states that the union will coordinate rent strikes within the next three years, should the university fail to meet their, currently undisclosed, demands. An anonymous union source has confirmed the existence of the policy and that it will be formally announced next Monday, before being put forward to union council the following Thursday, 20th October.
The current terms and conditions for accommodation on the UEA campus state that all students must pay accommodation fees within 28 days of being invoiced. The licence may then be terminated “by not less than 28 days’ notice (“the Notice Period”) in writing to the Licensee on the non-payment of the Licence fee (whether formally demanded or not).” Therefore, this proposal to be put forward by the union may put students at risk of eviction, within a matter of weeks, should they opt to go on rent strike.
This comes less than three weeks after NUS President, Malia Bouattia published a blog in the Huffington Post, where she advocated rent strikes across the UK, writing: “In halls, the choice is increasingly between roughly affordable, but often squalid housing on the one hand, and outrageously priced “luxury” housing on the other.”
“All over the country, a key aspect of the marketisation of higher education has been the rapid growth of extremely expensive residences geared up for the benefit of big business, not the students who live there.”
Commenting on the motion, an SU spokesperson said, “Proposals to the SU Council can be submitted by students with a variety of different views but are not the policy until debated, amended and agreed — so it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on this particular proposal ahead of the meeting.”
Rent Strike action began at University College London (UCL) in February. After three months the first strike, of 150 students at UCL had expanded to incorporate hundreds more students at three other institutions. The Cut the Rent campaign at Goldsmiths called this “the largest rent strike action in British history.” In July, UCL students declared victory after five months of strike action. Since then, the National Union of Students (NUS) has pledged to lend its support to nationwide student strikes as the debate over costly university accommodation continues. At the beginning of September, thousands of students were expected to go on rent strikes in protest, and the NUS has confirmed it will be rallying students to take action.
While accommodation at UCL ranges from approximately £102 to £280 fee per week, UEA charges from £84 (a shared room in the ziggurats) to £148 (Barton and Hickling house). In 2011 UEA accommodation was voted number one in the UK by What Uni Student Choice awards, and given a five-star rating by students in the Virgin Guide to British Universities in 2012.
In 2015, Money Supermarket research named UEA accommodation as the sixth best in the country for value for money. For this, they analysed the country’s top 20 universities.
Commenting on the wider issues of campus rents, which union council has already debated, SU Campaigns and Democracy Officer Amy Rust said: “We’ve always been in favour of the University building and renting out its own accommodation — but when the stock is used to whack already cash strapped students with massive above inflation rent increases, enough is enough. We’re calling on the university to end what amounts to a back door fee increase for first years — asking them to look again at above inflation increases to make sure students can afford to study and live.”