University announces 3.5% accommodation fee increase

By Anna Tatham

The University has announced that college residence fees will rise by 3.5% to £7,672 for the 2019/20 academic year.

The cost of a catered single standard room for undergraduates will increase from £7,422 to £7,672, while standard self-catered rooms will cost £5,370 a year, instead of £5,195.

Catered single en-suite rooms will increase from £7,883 to £8,149, and self-catered ensuite rooms will rise from £5,655 to £5,846.

Durham Students’ Union President George Walker described the news as “absolutely unacceptable”.

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.

“This decision actively excludes students from lower income backgrounds from attending Durham.”

College residence fees were previously increased by 3.5% to £7,422 for the academic year 2018/19 in October 2017, as reported by Palatinate.

Prices have increased from under £5,000 a year in 2011/12 to over £7,000 this year.

During the 2017/18 academic year, the University says that Durham SU and student representatives were consulted on the issue. They requested a freeze in fees and for the Consumer Price Index to be used as the measure of inflation for obtaining the price rise of residence charges.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, said: “We are grateful for the insight and the contributions that student representatives made to these discussions.”

The charge for a fully catered ensuite room (with a double bed) at St Aidan’s College reached £8,119 last year, which saw college residence fees exceed £8,000 for the first time.

Hundreds of students responded to the news with numerous protests outside the Bill Bryson Library and in the Palatine Centre last year.

“We’re worried that this is really going to heighten the divide between an elitist University and a local community.”

George Walker has expressed his concerns about the “disillusioned” increase and its impact on poorer students accessing Durham, as well as those from the local community.

He said: “We’re [also] worried that this is really going to heighten the divide between an elitist University and a local community.”

The Students’ Union will be “stepping up” its #RippedOff campaign will have a stall outside the Bill Bryson next Thursday 11am-3pm, which will be followed by a debrief meeting with students and student leaders at 4pm.

The #RippedOff campaign was launched by Durham Students’ Union President Alice Dee in 2017 in response to the rising accommodation fees at the University.

Durham University Labour Club said: “The University hopes however that we will sit idly by and accept the jump in fees as an inevitability, while more money is poured into developments that keep up Durham’s appearance as a world class institution but have little impact on student experience.”

“This decision actively excludes students from lower income backgrounds from attending Durham.”

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, 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.”

Photograph: Zoë Boothby

@annatatha

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