Hundreds attend Ripped Off protest against accommodation fees

By Blundell 

Hundreds congregated on Palace Green this afternoon for the “biggest ever” protest against rising accommodation fees, as part of the Ripped Off campaign.

A variety of livers-in, livers out and staff were seen carrying banners and clanging pots and pans.

The protests were in response to the University’s decision to raise college residence fees by 3.5% to £7,672 for the 2019/20 academic year.

A number of speeches were heard before the crowds headed into the city to march against rising accommodation fees at the University.

Speakers included Clara Ohayon (President of St. Aidan’s College) George Walker (Durham Students’ Union President), Victoria Ashfield (Parish Councillor for Elvet and Gilesgate), David Evans (Postgraduate Student Officer) and the Assistant Professor of Geography at Durham University.

One sign read, ‘Even Hatfield Can’t Afford these Prices,’ whilst another reported, ‘F*** the Vice Chancellor.’

Others alluded to the poor state of accommodation, with signs reading, ‘Do the rats cost extra?’ and ‘Do we pay extra for the mould?’.

Durham University Labour Club co-chair told Palatinate: “This is, without doubt, the biggest protest that Durham has seen for years and I think it really shows how angry and pissed off people are.

“Durham has consistently, as a University, chosen to exclude poorer students, students from working-class backgrounds and local students from attending the University.”

The protest follows the Parish Council meeting of last night, which saw a unanimous vote against the university’s planned increase in accommodation fees, as previously reported by Palatinate.

“I’m really encouraged to see the number of young people here today… a huge number of people making very sensible comments… they’re seeing the bigger picture and the wider situation in the city.” Victoria Ashfield, representing the council, told Palatinate.

David Evans, who first became a student at Durham in 2009, has witnessed the rise of accommodation prices over the last decade and said: “The success of this one has been in really working with the colleges.”

He said the campaign succeeded to “bring also the local community together and staff, to show that really, every member of this community is against these increases.”

Dr Siobhan McGrath, Assistant Professor of Geography and UCU member, praised the actions of students and commented on the poor treatment of staff by the University in relation to pension and pay.

In her speech, she told students, “this is your education right here,” and stated, “we are re-learning how to fight.”

told Palatinate he felt “really positive” about the turnout.

“I’m really pleased with how today went… this is the biggest protest we’ve had for the Ripped Off campaign.

“There’s a lot of energy, a lot of optimism. I think people are really showing [that] they’ve had enough about the rise in college fees, and that they won’t accept this any longer.”

Walker promised that this would not be the end of the process, and the campaign would continue to lobby against the University until they get a response.

He anticipates “bigger” action on future open days.

Over 250 have signed the Ripped Off petition thus far, and a book is to be left out in Riverside Bar in the Students’ Union for students to add their signature.

A Durham University spokesperson said: “The University is listening to both students and applicants and this is why it has developed The Durham Grant – available to home undergraduates from low-income families. We are constantly seeking to expand these forms of support, as much as possible.”

Photographs: and

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