By Jack Taylor
Twelve members of the Durham University Labour Club have staged a ‘sleep-in’ inside the Palatine Centre this evening to protest the University’s accommodation fees.
The University announced that college residence fees will rise by 3.5% to £7,672 for the 2019/20 academic year back in October. Prices have previously increased from under £5,000 a year in 2011/12 to over £7,000 for this academic year.
Kate McIntosh, DULC Co-Chair, told Palatinate: “It will cost up to £8,149 to live in college in 2019, and fees have been rising every single year, pricing out students from lower income backgrounds, negatively impacting student health and wellbeing, and
Spencer Payne, DULC Co-Chair, stressed that this protest was a “positive start” in dealing with the issue.
The Palatine Centre was chosen as the venue because, as McIntosh explains, “it is the nicest building we have access to as students. It houses the Vice-Chancellor’s office, and allegedly £1.4 millions worth of fine art the University brought a few years ago”.
The group plan to leave by 7am and have no intention of being a nuisance to staff or disrupting the work of the counselling service, Palatinate has been told.
“We’re now paying £38 per night for a college room. We’ve decided that tonight we are going to get our money’s worth and sleep in Durham’s most premium accommodation: the floor of the Palatine Centre”.
During the night the group plan to work on their summatives and play board games, before taking part in the sleep aspect of the ‘sleep-in’.
The Durham University Labour Club say that they have future plans to escalate their efforts.
Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), Durham University, said: “Like any other enterprise, the cost of running the University increases each year. College fees have been raised so as to reflect rising staff, utility, and building costs.
“However, we know some of our students face real financial pressures. We offer a bursary scheme, known as the Durham Grant Scheme (DGS). The DGS is available to Undergraduates – throughout their course – who are Home Students, studying their first degree, and who have a household income of less than £25,000 a year. We are constantly seeking to expand these forms of support, as much as possible.
“We are committed to freedom of expression within the law and encourage free expression and debate amongst our staff, students and visitors. This reflects our core values as a university.”
Photographs: Jack Taylor