Students at Bristol University are refusing to pay rent, claiming campus housing costs are excluding working class teens from the uni.
According to campaign group Bristol, Cut The Rent, the university has increased the cost of living in halls of residence by an average of 4.5% in the last year and is set to do so again by 3.5%.
“Bristol should be an inclusive university,” a spokesperson for the group told HuffPost UK. “Your financial background should not determine your chance to study at a good university.”
They claim that a number of students are working almost full-time on top of their courses “just to keep up with the cost of living”.
“Student loans are now capped at £8,200,” they added. “If you’re paying £5,000 or £6,000 for rent and you come from the kind of family where your parents can’t afford to give you loads of money, you have no option but to work.
“That puts a real strain on people’s physical and mental health.”
According to the group, the average cost of self-catered halls at Bristol University is £5,807 for 42 weeks, or £7,212 for catered accomodation.
Protesters are refusing to pay their campus accomodation fees until the university cuts rent costs back to 2015/16 levels - a drop of around 4.5%.
They are also demanding that uni bosses release “detailed accounts” of the running and maintenance costs of halls and to make sure “genuinely affordable” accomodation is available to students from September 2018.
While Bristol, Cut The Rent refused to reveal the exact number of students involved in the rent strike to protect their anonymity, they said it was a “sizeable” amount.
“Students don’t want to do this, but they feel they have no choice,” the spokesperson added.
“As soon as the university shows themselves willing to listen and redefines its notion of affordability, students will be happy to pay.”
But a spokesperson for Bristol University said the institution does not make a profit from residential accomodation and “simply seeks to cover its costs”.
“The price of accommodation is similar to that charged by universities in the other cities in the south of England and is competitive against private rented accommodation in Bristol,” they said.
“We recognise that accommodation is a significant cost for students, and this year we have worked with the Students’ Union with the aim of establishing rent setting principles.
“Every year, we make a number of rooms available at lower rents and we consult with our Students’ Union on the cost of those. We have also recently agreed a residential bursary scheme for students joining us from households with a low income.”
The university will continue to work with student representatives to resolve the issue, the spokesperson added.
Officials are set to meet with protesters tomorrow.