College formal prices to rise amid cost of living crisis

By and Emily Doughty

The prices set by the central University catering service for formal dinners are set to rise significantly next academic year, with the University citing “retrospective staff cost increases and increases due to food inflation”.

Under a new pricing system set out by the University operations team, liver-in students will be charged between £8.70 and £14.01 for a meal at a formal dinner, whilst liver-out students will pay between £11.55 and £17.03. Some colleges may independently choose to subsidise these prices, offer financial support provisions or use an alternative catering supplier.

The University’s Head of Operations Paul Taylor announced a new banding system of formal prices in an email to colleges last term. Previously a “standard tariff” was set by the University and colleges could opt to pay supplementary charges for changes to the standard meal provision.

Under the new system a standard meal will entail a soup starter and chicken main course, whilst the “mid-range” tariff will be charged for a non-soup starter and a beef or pork main and a duck or salmon main will be classed as “premium”. Colleges will be able to develop specific tariffs for any main options not included in these bands.

Students at St Cuthbert’s Society were made aware of these changes by College Vice-Principal Dr Jon Warren. He explained in a later email that the Society and its JCR “do not have any control over these prices, they are set by Central University catering and apply to all Colleges”.

They are making life for working-class students more financially draining and thus more isolating

Jamie Halliwell, Durham Working-class Students Association

President of the Working Class Students Association Jamie Halliwell told Palatinate, “we feel as if we’re going insane”. He explained that “every week there seems to be an announcement from the upper University that they are making life for working-class students more financially draining and thus more isolating”, despite frequent assurances from University bodies that efforts are being made to support these students.

“Formals are a formative part of the uni experience” he continued. “We have been told [that the University is] aware of how classist they can be [that they] are trying to make colleges more inclusive. That is obviously a lie.

“The University really needs to consider how much they actually care about working-class students because as it stands they seem so apathetic to the idea that being working-class in Durham is so isolating and draining.”

Durham’s 93% Club echoed these sentiments, explaining that price increases “will only lead to greater exclusion and isolation of disadvantaged students at Durham” and risk creating a “culture of elitism” at formals.

Although they acknowledged the national issue of rising operational costs, they commented that, “formals are events that offer important opportunities to foster a sense of inclusion, socialise and make memories at University, it is unacceptable if these opportunities are not available to some students simply because they cannot afford it.”

Image: Durham University

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