The University has defended its decision to increase the cost of college accommodation for the 2015/16 academic year.
Students living in college next year will have to pay £600 more for a standard room. Overall, the last two years have seen price increases of 5.6% for catered accommodation.
In an email addressed to all students last November, the University justified the price rise by claiming that it expected the cost of gas, electricity and food to increase by 12%, despite inflation falling to a 12 year low.
The news left many students angry and upset, and a petition was promptly launched in the hope of forcing the University to reconsider the soaring prices.
However, Professor Graham Towl, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Warden, told Palatinate that the benefits of living in college outweigh the £6,819 cost of a standard room.
“We are a collegiate University and this comes at a price.
“Benefits of living in college include strong pastoral support, opportunities to get involved in a wide range of activities – such as college sport, the arts, volunteering – and belonging to a unique environment for students to make long-lasting friendships”.
The professor also revealed that the University took advise from the Students’ Union, as well as Junior and Senior Common Rooms across the University, when revealing the price increase to students.
“Our transparent approach to costings was referenced recently in a THE (Times Higher Education) article about the cost of college accommodation and we think its important to provide a breakdown of costs to our students.
“The student representatives persuasively argued for this continued transparency, an approach we entirely support”.
Despite the transparent approach, a number of students have claimed that the university must do more to justify the constantly rising costs.
The fact that part of the fees paid by students goes towards ‘capital and borrowing expenditure’ has also been questioned.
Professor Towl told Palatinate that this money helps to secure the “long term stability” of University buildings, and contributes towards funding future refurbishment programmes.
Laura Carter, the Community Officer for Durham Students’ Union told Palatinate about the petition to make the University reconsider the increases, saying:
“We added a petition to our website, to gauge student opinion. This has received over 2000 signatures from students. We have met with the University to discuss the amount of signatures and expect a detailed plan for how the repair and maintenance charges will be spent.”
“I think they need to justify the price hike more convincingly if they intend to up the prices year after year”, said one final year English student living in St. Aiden’s College.
“Giving ‘significantly higher than predicted inflation rates’ as the reason will never be enough to satisfy students who already have to fork out £9000 a year on tuition fees”.
Another student, a second year at St. Mary’s College, told Palatinate that the fact that the fee increases are above the rate of inflation is a concern.
“I’m choosing to live in next year as its my final year, so I thought the convenience of living in college and being catered for was worth it.
“I do believe that the fact that the fees are above the rate of inflation is unfair and that had accommodation been this price when I was a prospective student it might have been off-putting”.
Lloyd Bent, a final year English student living in Van Mildert College, said that he believes that living in college isn’t worth the fee-increase.
“To justify the price they [the university] need to lower it! I don’t think people need more, I just think people are being charged too much for what they need”.
Photographs: Venus Loi and Nicoletta Asciuto