By Sophie Gregory
The University has announced a 3.5% increase in college residence charges for the 2018/19 academic year.
The cost of a catered single standard room for undergraduates will increase from £7,171 to £7,422, while standard self-catered rooms will cost £5,195 a year, up from £4,891.
In an email sent to students this morning, Durham’s Pro-Vice Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), Owen Adams, stated that this 3.5% increase in charges is in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI), a standard rate estimate of inflation.
Financial support, Mr Adams said, will be provided to help those students who are unable to cover the fees.
In 2018/19, additional support of £1,000, in the form of a College accommodation bursary, will be provided to all first year students whose “residual household income” is between £25,000 (the current bursary threshold) and £35,000.
The Durham Grant, for those with a household income below £25,000, will also continue to be available, and Mr Adams claims approximately 630 new students will be eligible for the grant in 2018/19.
The email states that prior to making the decision, “consultation meetings were held with the Student’s Union (SU) and student representatives during the 2016/17 academic year and a full range of views were presented by the student representatives and the price-setting group.”
Durham Students’ Union did not support the increase in price. Durham SU President Megan Croll said in a statement on Wednesday, 18 October: “I’m disappointed with this increase, but I’m at least able to tell you that Durham SU persuaded the University that they just couldn’t continue to raise their college fees at such an alarming rate as in previous years.
“In 2011/2012, for example, the University increased fees by 13.41% which means that even though they’ve now committed to an inflationary increase, they’re inflating an already extortionate cost. An inflationary increase is a small win, but if this rate of increase continues, fees will top £8,000 within three years.”
A Working Group has been set up in order to increase the variety of accommodation options made available to students. The group will consider ways to achieve a greater range of residential charge packages via differential pricing, and subject to being agreed upon, a new model could be introduced by 2019/20.
Mr Adams continued: “In anticipation of this Review, in 2018/19 the price of shared rooms will not only be frozen but reduced by a further £200 in order to deliver a greater charge differential in relation to single rooms.”
“Shared rooms for 2018/19 will therefore be £436 cheaper than single rooms,” he said. “There is also a discount of £236 for shared rooms and single rooms that do not have a sink.”
George Stanbury, SU representative for Grey College and chair of Durham for Accessible Education, told Palatinate: “Today’s announcement continues to show how disconnected senior staff are from a Durham student’s experience. To expect a normal 18 year old to pay over £7,400 for accommodation is wishful and continues to harm our University community, preventing students from less financially privileged backgrounds to prosper.
“Although the partial reinstatement of financial support for students from a household income of between £25,000 and £35,000 is positive, it is little more than a token gesture to the affordability problems that face Durham students.
“A person whose parents earn £36,000 still needs £300 from their parents to pay their rent. This situation is not sustainable and a wholescale remodelling of our accommodation costs is needed.”
In a statement to Palatinate, Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), defended the price increase: “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.”
Further information on the college residence fees can be found on the University website.
Photograph: Durham University