Lancaster University offers £400 rent payment in response to strike

Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor announces £400 ‘goodwill’ rent payment for students who are unable to return to campus

Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield has announced a £400 “goodwill” rent payment for students who are unable to return to campus in the Lent term due to the national lockdown. It comes in response to a prominent rent strike from on-campus students.

The Vice-Chancellor specified that this payment is on top of rent repayments offered to on-campus students who were unable to return to campus in the summer term of the 2019/2020 year as a result of the first national lockdown. Within an email he stated: “Altogether this means we will have returned £10m in total to Lancaster students during the course of the pandemic.

“As a University we are acutely aware that on top of our priorities to keep people safe, we need to provide the first-rate education that our students expect.”

The Vice-Chancellor addressed claims that the university was making a profit over the pandemic, stating: “I can assure you that is not the case. It is no cheaper to teach online than in-person. We do not make a profit from student accommodation. Funds raised from rents are used to service accommodation and for improving its quality and facilities.”

He then outlined the relationship that the university has with its accommodation and a company called UPP. This is a national company which operates the majority of the on-campus accommodation at Lancaster University.

The Vice-Chancellor stated: “The University is contractually obliged to transfer the full rent from accommodation whether students are able to be in residence or not and thus the full impact of the goodwill payment is being borne by the University. This arrangement with UPP normally works well and has contributed to Lancaster having very high-quality student accommodation, but of course the pandemic has resulted in a large number of empty rooms during this year.”

He continued to reference the financial cutbacks the university is having to make to continue to operate. This included many staff voluntarily giving up salary in the autumn and a voluntary severance scheme to reduce costs.

He stated in the email: “As a result of the pandemic we have had to take quite extreme actions to mitigate the loss of tens of millions of pounds of income. Whilst it is true that we have been able to make some savings on things like staff international travel, the vast majority of the costs of running the University remain the same.”

The announcement also referenced an increase in funding to student support facilities and emphasised the mental health and well being support offered by the university.

It read: “Lancaster’s counselling, mental health and wellbeing team are providing new services and extra appointment slots to make accessing support easier for students. Practitioners make contact with any urgent cases on the same day and also offer new ‘one-off’ appointments bookable a day in advance. Students can also access 24 hour online support through Silvercloud.”

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