‘It’s an insult’: 71 per cent of Lancs students reject ‘goodwill’ payment

We spoke to Lancaster students about the University’s £400 ‘goodwill’ payment in response to the rent strike

As a result of the latest national lockdown, many Lancaster University students have been unable to return to campus. It comes as no surprise that students are unhappy at the prospect of paying for accommodation they are not able to live in, and consequently many have chosen to participate in a rent strike. 

It has now been more than two weeks since Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield announced a £400 “goodwill” rent payment to students who are unable to return to campus due to the national lockdown. It is important to note that this “goodwill” payment is actually rent credit since students who choose to accept the offer will still be required to pay the full Lent Term accommodation fee, and in return will receive a £400 discount on their rent for Summer Term.

In an Instagram poll surveyed recently by the Lancaster Tab, it was revealed that 71% of students have rejected the ‘goodwill’ payment. The Univerity has extended the window for accepting their offer until the 31st January but it is unlikely that more students will accept it meaning the rent strike will continue.

The rent strike is ongoing as many remain unsatisfied by the University’s response. We spoke to students about the “goodwill” rent payment and found out why they are continuing to strike, and why some have decided to accept the offer.

“£400 barely covers three weeks rent, yet we’re told to stay at home for twice that time”

For most students, £400 only covers a small portion of the rent they are due to pay for their accommodation this term. Students are no closer to knowing when it will be safe for them to return to campus and it is likely that many won’t return at all during Lent Term. “£400 is nothing in contrast to the number of weeks we’ve been told to stay home,” says Becca, a first-year student who has Superior Ensuite accommodation in Grizedale College, she told us “£400 is not even enough for three weeks” of her rent. James, a first-year student from Cartmel College agrees, saying that “£400 barely covers three weeks rent, yet we’re told to stay at home for twice that time.”

The phrase “goodwill” was used by the University has been heavily criticised by students. “It’s an insult parading as ‘goodwill’, not covering half the rent for inaccessible accommodation,” says Asad Naqvi, a first-year student from Cartmel College. Other students have also pointed out that “the name of the scheme itself is incredibly manipulative.”

Georgia, a first-year student from County College pointed out that “some unis are giving a full term’s refund” and thinks that it is “not fair on us to be any different.” This reflects the general feeling among students which is that “it’s wrong to charge us for the rooms when we aren’t using them.”

“They wouldn’t give it to me as I am a medical student”

Medical students at Lancaster University are apparently “not being offered the ‘goodwill’ payment” because there is the expectation that they will be living on campus as they still have in-person practicals to attend throughout the lockdown. 

First-year medical student, Megan from Lonsdale College told us that medical students like her, would “still have to pay the full accommodation fees and wouldn’t be offered the ‘goodwill’ payment,” even if they had chosen to commute to campus for their one in-person practical each week rather than stay on campus for the duration of Lent Term. Megan says “you can’t get onto the ‘goodwill’ payment survey” because if you’re a medical student, the University “automatically doesn’t offer it to you.” She has attempted to access the ‘goodwill’ payment survey and has concluded that “either they’re not offering it or their system is faulty.”

“We don’t have access to the services we normally would”

As well as the issue of paying for accommodation which can’t be returned to, some students have expressed their frustrations resulting from not being able to use some services due to the lockdown. Like most students, Alexandra, a third-year student from Bowland College did not think that the offer of the ‘goodwill’ rent payment was fair. She has said that the cost of the room is only part of the problem because there is also the fact that students are paying for services which cannot be accessed, for example, “not even counselling as long as we’re not in the UK.”

Gemma, a first-year environmental student from County College has added to this and told us, “I am still living on campus and am prepared to pay my rent” however, she believes that “those living on campus deserve some compensation” because they aren’t receiving all the services that are included as part of their rent. Gemma “believes the strikers can get a better deal” and hopes that “a fairer deal for those who can’t return” is achieved.

“I felt pressured by the email”

Despite the rent strike continuing, some students have accepted the offer of the ‘goodwill’ rent payment because they felt it was their “only chance to get something back from the uni.” Hannah, a first-year student from Pendle College has said she felt a “sense of panic” when she first saw the email regarding the ‘goodwill’ payment. The email included a deadline for accepting the offer which she said made her feel pressured to accept less than what she thought she deserved because “it was the only option.” Hannah didn’t see the posts on Instagram about rejecting the offer until after she had filled out the form to accept it and says that she regrets the decision because she now feels “taken advantage of.”

Some names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.

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