A nationwide university rent strike is sweeping the country as more students join the movement

Bristol Rent Strike
Eliza Egret

Cambridge and Nottingham university students have joined students in Bristol and Manchester in declaring that they’re on rent strike. And as other students from campuses across the UK threaten to take the same action, the movement could soon become massive.

Since September, universities have been accepting new students and charging them money for accommodation, while putting the lives of students, lecturers and cleaners at risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus (Covid-19).

More than 1,400 students at the University of Bristol are taking part in the rent strike. They argue that:

Students were goaded into halls under the illusion of a normal university experience, with the promise of in person teaching and socialising with other new students. As the year has unfolded, it’s become abundantly clear that this promise was a blatant lie that the university could never fulfill. As such, it’s only fair that students’ rent reflects this disparity.

Over the course of the first semester, over 1,500 students have contracted coronavirus at Bristol university alone.

Disgraceful conditions

Bristol Rent Strike argues that self-isolating students are being treated absolutely appallingly. It says that:

many [students are] left waiting days for food boxes that don’t always reflect dietary requirements and often contain no fresh food at all. Strikers have also had to push the university to provide sanitary products as, initially, the university didn’t offer them to isolating students at all. Isolating students also have to face two weeks with no access to fresh air, which has understandably taken a toll on many students’ mental health.

Rejecting students’ demands

On 20 November, Bristol university’s Board of Trustees rejected the students’ very reasonable demands. The students are asking for:

a 30% rent cut, no penalty contract releases, and refunding international students’ £800 deposits for their room if they cannot take them up.

Bristol Rent Strike argues that the university has a duty of care to its students. The group says that this is “a duty they have been rejecting”. The students go on to say:

By voting to reject the demands put forth, the university has essentially refused to take any accountability for the situation students in halls are left to deal with.

Victory in Manchester as more universities join the rent strike

On 25 November, University of Manchester students finally scored a victory, getting a 30% rent reduction for the first semester. The students are continuing to strike, demanding that they get the same reduction for the second term. Bristol Rent Strike argues that “this deal sets a precedent for other universities”.

Meanwhile, also on 25 November, Nottingham students declared a rent strike. They are demanding a 40% reduction on rent for every student.

The strikers told the Nottingham Tab:

We’ve been cheated and scammed by halls and the University of Nottingham. All of this has been hugely damaging to our mental health as a whole, and we need to take action.

On 23 November, Cambridge University students also declared a rent strike, demanding a:

30 per cent rent reduction for the 2020-2021 academic year, and a permanent 10 per cent rent reduction across all colleges.

“We won’t stop agitating”

Bristol Rent Strike says that, inspired by the victory in Manchester, strikers are planning on escalating action. They say:

We won’t stop agitating until the University makes clear that it’s willing to listen to students, and take their welfare seriously.

As universities continue to put profits over the wellbeing and safety of students and staff, we can expect to see a massive student rent strike movement sweep across the country. It’s high time students’ demands were met.

Featured image via Bristol Rent Strike

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