By James Poole
Durham students are telling prospective students and their parents about spiralling accommodation fees at the University’s post-offer open days.
The students, who are giving out leaflets at the science site and train station, are asking visitors to email the University’s Accommodation Office to ask if fees will rise even further, in the hope that this will pressure the University to take action.
The campaign, organised by Durham Students for University Reform, is calling for the University to freeze accommodation fees (which have increased by 20% over the past three years), be more transparent and involve students in the setting of fees.
Harry Cross, co-chair of Durham Students for University Reform, told Palatinate this morning: “We’ve already had several parents express genuine concern about accommodation fees at Durham, offering their full support to our campaign.”
Another student distributing leaflets, Paul Cohen, told Palatinate why he is taking action: “I’m hoping to highlight that the University’s accommodation fees will exclude people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
“If I’d known how bad accommodation fees were going to get when applying, I probably would have had second thoughts about Durham – I’m struggling financially at the moment.”
He added: “We don’t want to dissuade students from coming to Durham, but it would be remiss of us not to allow students who might potentially have financial difficulties at Durham to make an informed decision.”
Adam Carnall, a Physics student, was optimistic that the University will listen to their concerns, saying: “We’ve got a fight on our hands to get the University to listen to us but we’re optimistic that we’ll see some action soon.
“We’re very clear in our message that we love Durham and want people to come here but want prospective students to know about the problem of accommodation fees.”
Students also distributed leaflets yesterday and will continue tomorrow on the last of the University’s post-offer open days.
Professor Graham Towl, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Warden, said: “The University is committed to freedom of expression within the law and we encourage free expression and debate amongst staff, students and visitors.
“As a university we have been transparent about our costs and remain competitive in terms of our accommodation pricing. More information about College accommodation prices can be found on our website.”
Responding to Professor Towl’s comments, Harry Cross told Palatinate: “It has been repeatedly pointed out that catered accommodation at Durham University is over £2,000 more expensive than at York or Newcastle. I would therefore be curious to know on what basis Professor Towl says costs at Durham are ‘competitive’.”
Photographs: Venus Loi