By Clara Gaspar
On Thursday night, Durham City Parish Council voted unanimously for a motion that condemned Durham University’s proposal to further increase accommodation fees.
The full motion was from Councillor Carole Reeves for Neville’s Cross Ward, and it proposed,
“Durham University have recently announced a further increase in college accommodation fees. Rising to £8,149 per year for catered en-suite, this means Durham will continue to have amongst the highest accommodation fees in the country outside of London.
Alongside the impact this has in terms of pricing out low income students and many of the local area who might otherwise aspire to attending the university, this increase will only further fuel the overheated market in HMOs, risking more houses on our residential streets converted for student occupancy. This both undermines the strength of the community in the City of Durham and makes it harder for young local residents to find housing within the City.
The City of Durham Parish Council condemns this increase and commits to write to Durham University to express our opposition to this rise and our belief that only a freeze in college accommodation fees can address the crisis in affordability for Durham students and the crisis in housing for local residents.”
The motion was proposed in the light of Durham University’s announcement that college residence fees will rise by 3.5% to £7,672 for the 2019/20 academic year.
The motion was seconded by Councillor Jonathan Elmer of Neville’s Cross Ward.
Councillor Reeves said that students in Durham “tend to be seen as ‘the other'” but told councillors that “this will affect you as well”.
Although the University has stated that the 3.5% increase in charges is in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI), a standard rate estimate of inflation, Reeves argued that “the University is duplicitously using the wrong type of inflation to measure” fee increases.
Councillor Saul Cahill for Durham South, also Undergraduate Academic Officer at Durham Students’ Union, added, “I’m from Washington, from a working-class family with a single mother and I’d just like to state the fact that I wouldn’t be able to afford to come to Durham now.”
George Walker, President of Durham Students’ Union, attending the meeting, stated,
“When the University is the biggest landlord in the City, and they’re charging such high fees for college accommodation, that is what allows landlords to get away with charging, still, incredibly high rents for completely substandard accommodation in the City.”
The #RippedOff campaign, run by Durham Students’ Union, will be hosting a ‘De-matriculation rally’ to protest rising accommodation fees. It will take place at 3.30pm today in Palace Green.
Photograph: the velvet foxes via Flickr