Durham accommodation protesters blast increasing housing fees

The rent is too damn high


A much hyped student protest on the rising costs of student accommodation had some choice words for the university.

Chants by the gathered students included “you can shove your price increases up your arse” and “I’m fucking freezing, so why aren’t my fees?”

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The protest, planned by the organisation Durham Students for University Reform, began at 1pm on Monday outside of the Bill Bryson Library, before moving on to the Calman Learning Centre. Protesters also travelled through the Palatine Centre, which organisers explained was in order “to draw attention to the fact that University has refused to engage with students on this issue”.

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Speaking before the protest, organisers were optimistic.

They said: “As you can see from the event page we currently have over 200 attendees. Even if we fall far short of that then this will remain one of the largest protests held at Durham in years.

“We are holding the protest for the following reasons: College accommodation fees have risen in Durham year-on-year above both the level of inflation and increases at other university’s. Durham University has refused to be fully transparent regarding the breakdown of accommodation costs (can supply more information should you desire).

“From what we do know, we think it is wrong that students are expected to cough up money for capital and borrowing in financial markets and should only pay for the facilities they use. We believe the uni makes such unpopular decisions because they rely on Durham students to be apathetic. We believe it’s time for Durham students to show this isn’t the case and we refuse to be treated as cash cows.”
Harry Cross, the co-chair of Durham Students for University Reform, had high hopes for a reaction by the university to the student protest.
“The protest has already attracted national media attention and the University has had to justify its behaviour as the largest landlord in Durham City in the pages of the Times Higher Education Supplement.”

“This public scrutiny and the strength of student opinion on the matter should force the University to be more transparent on the issue of accommodation fees and to enter more meaningful negotiations with the DSU.
“Failing that, acting Vice-Chancellor Ray Hudson and the five candidates to his succession should prepare for sustained campaigning by students on the topic of the accommodation crisis in Durham City.”
Harry continued: “Soaring accommodation fees are leading to a two-tier university experience determined by one’s ability to afford the cost of living in.”
“The University seems to share the popular image of Durham that we’re all rahs with endless amounts of money to spend. In fact, we’re not all cash cows and we’re going to show them that we refuse to be ripped off like this.”
For 2015/16, the price of university maintained catered accommodation will be above £7,000. This is a significant rise from the current level, with the most expensive accommodation provided by the university in 2014/15 costing £6,623. And that’s for those international students who have chosen to come a week earlier for their Induction Week.
In 2014/15 the maximum student finance loan and grant available (outside of exceptional circumstances) was £7249. Although information for 2015/16 was not accessible, it is clear that for many students living in Durham University accommodation will leave them with only a couple of hundred pounds to live on for the year.
Some people were cynical about the protest and the level of impact it will be able to have.
A source said: “Shout out to the protesters at the science site. Please stop shouting out.”
Another said: “Shout out to the protesters at Science site. Shame no-one gives a fuck!”
But the protesters remained resilient despite the cynicism. Harry said: “Durham University relies on the apathy of its students to force through unpopular decisions, which is why catered accommodation costs £2,500 more at Durham University than at Newcastle. We need to break that cycle forcing the University to be accountable and to take stock of student opinion.”
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So – how successful was the Day of Action? Harry told us: “There were 140 people present at the busiest point, making this the largest student protest at Durham in over a decade.
“The uncertain weather undoubtedly caused a reduction in the numbers we would have otherwise had, but given that people came and went continuously due to other commitments approximately 200 people were present at various points in the day.”
After the protest, Durham Students for University Reform outlined their plans for further action. In the event that Durham University does not react to the Day of Action, “Durham Students for University Reform are considering further action such as a boycott of the National Student Survey and action during University Open Days in March”.