Cut the Rent wins £1.5 million in concessions from UCL after five-month strike
UCL Cut the Rent’s five month rent strike has ended today, after UCL agreed to a partial rent freeze and to grant £600,000 in housing bursaries for the 2017/18 academic year. This combined with the concessions Cut the Rent gained from their rent strike last year means that in total they have won rent concessions worth £1.49 million to UCL students.
The £600,000 bursary is a significant increase on £350,000 bursary that was conceded by UCL last year, which only helped 230 out of 1,000 students who applied. This year Cut the Rent and UCL Accommodation “aim to rank students more effectively so a larger number of students can gain adequate financial support.” The maximum support students will receive in 2017/18 is £2,000 for the year.
The bursary fund is “progressive” meaning that it can help students who are excluded by the traditional means-tested standards, such as EU and International students.
UCL has agreed to freeze the rent of 1,224 of its rooms (roughly 25%) during 2017/18. However, there will be no actual decrease in rent until 2018/19. Cut the Rent will receive an additional £600,000 for the 2018/19 academic year which they plan to use to reduce rents.
Not all rents will be decreased; Cut the Rent will focus on the most affordable halls, as they are able to bring the rent down to similar prices of halls in other universities, “so low-income students aren’t put off studying at UCL by rent”.
Harvi Chera, a first-year BAME student at UCL, joined the rent strike due to feeling that:
“High and ever-increasing rents disproportionately prevent BAME and inner-city students from going into or continuing higher education. I felt compelled to stop this ethnic cleansing happening at my university, an institution in the diverse city of London where I was born and now study.”
UCL has increased rent by 48.4% since 2009, yielding an annual surplus of £15.56m in 2015/16. UCL Cut the Rent has labelled this a “tuition fee-increases by stealth”. Shelly Asquith, Former Vice President of NUS, congratulated the rent strike: “By withholding their rent, students have dealt a huge blow to for-profit education.”
UCL Cut the Rent may have gained a victory, but they promised The Tab that they would continue campaigning as there is still more to do to reach their aim of "[making]… UCL a truly affordable uni.”