President’s column: “join us for our de-matriculation rally”

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By the time you are reading this you will likely know Durham University will raise accommodation fees again – by 3.38% for the 2019/20 academic year. I am deeply frustrated by this decision, and know that this feeling will be shared.

Throughout the last few years students have made consistent representations to the University opposing spiralling college costs and demanding greater transparency regarding how accommodation fees are spent, and the cost of running and maintaining college accommodation. Students as a whole have also made their views on the issue absolutely clear, holding regular protests and demonstrating overwhelming support for the Students’ Union’s #RippedOff campaign.

Durham University has consistently performed poorly on measures of access and widening participation for students from disadvantaged groups, with recent research ranking Durham as the fourth worst University for social inclusion in the UK. The impact this further rise in fees could have on the ability of students from underrepresented groups to access a Durham education is of great concern.

The announcement also comes at a time when relations with Durham’s local community are being strained by the University Estates Masterplan and growth in student numbers. Demonstrating Durham University is open to the wider community and that studying at Durham is something which is accessible to prospective students living in County Durham is key to better partnership with our local community. The University’s announcement shows a worrying lack of commitment to this, and will only serve to deepen the divide between the two.

As well as consistently demanding a freeze in accommodation fees, students have lobbied the University for an expansion of the financial support offered to students, and increases were secured last year. This year we’ll be pushing for an increase in the needs-based financial support offered by the University and working to ensure that resources are better targeted at those most in need.

The SU has called on the University to be more transparent about how students’ accommodation fees are spent and how much it costs to run and maintain college accommodation, and await the University’s justification of this in November.

Durham SU and student leaders from across our Common Rooms are planning actions to show the University that this isn’t an issue students are going to stop caring about. Please join us for our de-matriculation rally this Friday, 26 October at 3:30pm on Palace Green or attend the upcoming Parish Council meeting where we will be seeking support from the local community to tackle this issue.

If you have any questions or would like to get more involved in the campaign, please do get in touch with me at su.president@durham.ac.uk

This column was written for Palatinate 809, published on Thursday 18th October, but was originally printed incorrectly. 

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