The cost of a standard catered room in college is set to rise to £8301 next year, surpassing £8000 for the first time, as Durham increases catering and accommodation prices by 4.1%.
College residence charges have increased by 40% over the past decade; in the 2012/2013 academic year a standard catered room with a shared bathroom cost £5955. Meanwhile, the maximum government student support has only risen by 36%.
In previous years the University sent an email to all students, explaining such increases; however, no such communications were sent this year.
While costs are set to rise by 4.1% for the next academic year, the government is only increasing maintenance support by 2.3%. Additionally, a government study showed that high inflation means that this 2.3% rise in support is a real cut of 7%.
Formal prices have also recently risen amidst the cost of living crisis. As charges have increased, fewer and fewer students are choosing to live in college.
The University’s 10-year strategy included a pledge to have over half of students in college accommodation by 2027. However, in the case of undergraduates, the percentage of those living in college accommodation has fallen from 43% in 2016/17 to 35% in 2020/21. The percentage of postgraduate students living in accommodation provided by their college has fallen from 39% to 20% over the same period.
Regarding the increases, Durham’s 93% Club told Palatinate: “Over the past few weeks, disadvantaged students at Durham have had to face several reports that continue to shatter the possibility for optimism for the next academic year. Unfortunately, recent news about increasing accommodation fees is the latest example of this.
“Whilst as a society we understand national rises in bills, rent and catering costs, it’s extremely disappointing to see Durham respond with increased accommodation fees that are disproportionately higher than the government support available.
“The University’s silence on this charging hike is troubling and concerning. With many having already agreed to return to living in college next year, it is simply unacceptable that some have had to find out about this amongst themselves. Calling into question the transparency of the university, it does not reassure us as a society that Durham continues to hide away from its current challenges.”
Students continue to battle many challenges while readjusting to life after the pandemic, and it is expected that we should be able to trust and rely on our university to communicate with us honestly.”
Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), said: “Costs of living, particularly energy and food, are rising rapidly – the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation is currently nine per cent. Increases in college fees for 2022/23 are significantly lower than this.
“In the case of fully-catered colleges, fees also provide students with 21 hot meals a week and this equates to £83 per week for this service in the 2022/23 academic year.
“We published fees for the 2022/23 academic year online at the start of this year and have communicated them during undergraduate and postgraduate open days.
“If students are experiencing financial difficulties, they can access a number of support systems. These include the Durham Grant, which is available to home undergraduates from low-income families, and an accommodation bursary available to first-year students from low-income families.”
Image: Thomas Tomlinson