The University of Manchester (UoM) is once again under fire over its dire student accommodation. This time, freshers are threatening a rent strike after it emerged bosses have barely made any changes since the last academic year’s strike by students.
UoM: an ongoing rent strike
The Canary has been following the story of the UoM rent strikes. Around 650 students have been withholding their rent from the university. This is because bosses increased rents on halls by up to £450 for the 2022 academic year. Plus, the state of accommodation is appalling.
Back in February, students occupied areas of the university in protest. They were part of the group UoM Rent Strike. Bailiffs eventually removed them. However, bosses have responded disproportionately, even taking the students to court to try and stop the strikes.
Perhaps most ridiculous incident was university bosses taking disciplinary action against 11 of the students – all for performing a peaceful protest. However, that didn’t go according to bosses’ plans. A UoM panel found that only one of the six allegations bosses made against the students was true: that they’d breached health and safety rules by barricading themselves into buildings.
However, the UoM still warned those students that if they took part in more action, it could expel them. Not that this has deterred people – now, a new batch of students will be taking action.
The action continues
First year students at the UoM have said they will be continuing the rent strike because bosses have put rents up yet again. UoM Rent Strike said in a press release:
On average, rent has increased a further 6% from last year, continuing to rise faster than the 2.8% increase in maintenance loan. On top of this, the University continues to provide subpar spaces to its students. Within weeks of moving in, students in Denmark Road accommodation lost water for six days – with others dealing with flooding, damp, and infestations. Last year, the University made a £120 million profit, and UoM Rent Strike feel they should not continue to profit off their students in this way.
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UoM Rent Strike said that first year students should cancel their rent direct debit in time for the first payment on the 20 October. It’s urging them to sign up to join the strike. Any student who lives in university-run accommodation can join the action.
While the group acknowledged that the university has not put rents up by as much as it was expected to, it says there are still issues:
Oak House has seen a basic refurbishment. Yet even Oak House is not considered affordable by the NUS definition (50% of the maximum maintenance loan), and rent continues to be high. From the small victories of last year’s strike, and those of the strike in 2020 (resulting in a 30% rent decrease 2020-21), the campaign sees reason to continue this year.
Moreover, some of the images coming out of the halls show they are in a state of disrepair:
Stop treating students like dirt
UoM Rent Strike says its demands for this academic year are:
- A reduction of all… rents by a third.
- A commitment from UoM that all new accommodation built as part of the Fallowfield Redevelopment will be affordable (under 50% of the maximum English maintenance loan).
- Guarantee every 1st year student accommodation they can afford, by changing the application process to take finances into account.
- All rent increases capped to the annual increase of the English maintenance loan.
- Students receive full rent refunds for every day which maintenance issues are not fixed.
UoM Rent Strike also said bosses must stop punishing and victimising students who take action over rent and living conditions. It said:
The University of Manchester is not allowed to impose academic punishments as a result of rent striking, but despite this, students report being subject to illegal threats of expulsion from the University, and a complaint has been submitted to the Competition and Markets Authority. Last year, every rent striker was issued either a £25 or £50 fine, depending on the length of their strike. All of these fines have been fully covered by the Rent Strike fund, which managed to raise enough money and support to prevent anyone having to pay more than they should have.
So, it seems that while UoM Rent Strike made some progress in getting bosses to listen, overall, little has changed. First year students getting involved in the action is a necessary move if people are going to make university bosses take notice.
Featured images and additional images/video via UoM Rent Strike
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