King’s College Cambridge Student Union announces rent strike

KCSU is currently organising a rent strike in response to rent increases and the cost of living crisis


King’s College Student Union is organising a rent strike in response to rent increasing by 8.1 per cent this year, a figure well above national inflation. The effect of such an increase will be undoubtedly dramatic, especially given the cost of living crisis.

Student Finance is set to increase by only 2.8 per cent and there will be no increase at all for the Cambridge Bursary.

The rent strike is a calling for students pledges to withhold their Easter Term college bill until their demands are met.

The Union released an open letter, detailing their demands, concerns and reasons for the proposed rent strike; citing accessibility issues as a primary concern, as they say financial barriers “will deter lower income students from applying”.

Their demands are as follows:

1. That the college commits to both:

a. No rent increase for the 2023/24 academic year

b. Tying future rent increases to the year-on-year increase of Student Finance maximum maintenance loans and full bursary combined, e.g. 2.06 per cent for the academic year 2023/24 or a 5 per cent cap, whichever is lowest

2. The college commits to offering rent support/subsidies for students who are financially struggling. For example, Girton bursary students receive a £20 per week discount on their rent

3. No disciplinary action for rent strikers, including restrictions on accommodation and those graduating this year

King’s accommodation, Bodley’s court (image credits: Julia Szaniszlo)

Over 90 students have signed the letter (as of the 1st of April) – a figure which surpasses the threshold of 50 or the solidarity threshold. This means that the strike will go ahead if the college does not agree to the above demands.

Negotiations are set to continue with the college in earnest in the coming term, but KCSU have made their views clear with regards to the college’s lack of action.

President of KCSU, Timi Olumide-Wahab, said: “King’s students striking should not be taken lightly. The entire country is in a cost of living crisis, and students are no exception. Despite King’s College’s acknowledgement of this, the rent hike is still there.

“Kind words are not sufficient to placate an anxious student body that requires more empathy, and ultimately rent concessions, from our College. This is not an anxiety that goes away after the Easter holiday, nor after the summer, but persists. What students feel right now cannot be ignored, and that is exactly why a strike is nothing short of necessary.”

Adnaan Ilyas, Domus Officer for KCSU, said: “College’s encouragement of the use of hardship funds is an admission that a basic necessity such as rent is pushing students into hardship. That is unacceptable. It is our duty to both current and future students, especially those least well off, to challenge this eye-watering rent rise and secure a fairer deal for all.”

The strike would entail participating students cancelling their planned direct debits and transferring their college bills to an escrow account managed by the Cambridge SU. The SU are managing the matter as an independent third party and will hold the funds in their accounts until an agreement is reached between the two parties, KCSU and King’s College.

King’s College provided the following statement: “We are acutely aware of the pressures created by the cost-of-living crisis and the ever-greater need for student support. Accommodation charges for the coming academic year were set in consultation with student representatives and, as in previous years, seek to provide a fair rent when compared to accommodation costs at similar UK institutions. Alongside this, our students are supported by a range of generous bursaries, especially for those most in need.”

You can read the minutes of the college council discussion about this here (21st February): Council and Governing Body Minutes | King’s College Cambridge.

Feature image credits Julia Szaniszlo