Protest against rising accommodation fees storms Palatine Centre

By Sophie Gregory

The protest against the rise in accommodation fees, previously reported by Palatinate, went ahead at 12pm today.

Over 100 people turned out for the protest, which took place outside the Bill Bryson Library. The protestors also entered the Palatine Centre, drawing the attention of staff.

Sebastián Sánchez-Schilling, a second year student at Grey College, told Palatinate: “I think the protest was important. It was easily the most attended demonstration I’ve seen. Even if people didn’t attend there’s an awareness and change of consciousness I think there wasn’t there before – this [is] really only the beginning.

“The rise in accommodation fees is obscene. How can we be paying almost on par with London universities if we live in the cheapest (in terms of housing costs) region in England? The University has aspirations to be on par with Oxbridge, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the administration thought they were, but their accommodation fees can almost be half of ours because they’re subsidised. Clearly, the university has to start valuing the students more. We’re tired of their arrogance and disregard for us.

“The new tiered system means disabled students will be forced to pay almost £8,000 for their rooms.”

Although the most recent 3.5% increase in costs is in line with inflation, in previous years college rents have risen considerably above this rate.

Prices increased from under £5,000 a year in 2011/12 to over £7,000 now.

The event, publicised on Facebook, states that the increase in rent is unjustified as: “A substantial part of the money paid in rent does not go to colleges and common rooms but disappears into the University centrally in activities classed as “the wider student experience”.

“This is a murky use of funds and the lack of transparency by the University is proof they cannot demonstrate that there is a genuine need for these funds.”

In a statement to Palatinate, the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (College and Student Experience), Owen Adams, said: “The cost of providing our College residences rises year on year and we have to review prices on an annual basis to ensure we can continue to provide a high standard of accommodation and services.

“In consultation with student representatives, the University has agreed that residence charges will increase by 3.5% for the 2018/19 academic year.

“All students have been informed of our decision and they have also been advised how to access financial support should they need it.

“We strive to offer good value for money to our students. We continue to invest in our colleges to offer an excellent student experience.

“Recent examples of refurbishment projects at our colleges include: a library extension at Josephine Butler, extension and refurbishment of Fountains Hall at Grey, a new gym at Trevelyan and refurbishment of bedrooms in the Pace block at Hatfield.”

More information on college residence fees can be found on the University website.

Photograph: Sebastián Sánchez-Schilling

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