‘We were lied to’: Newcastle students vow to withhold thousands in rent strike against uni

They are also calling for reform of the divisive Operation Oak


Students at Newcastle University are planning a rent strike as a response to the university’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

First year students are pledging to withhold their next instalment of rent, which is due to be paid on February 1st 2021, unless their demands are met.

The current demands of the “9k for what” Newcastle movement call for:

• A reimbursement of 50 per cent of tuition for semesters with online-only teaching, delivered as a support package

• A student led reform of Operation Oak: the policing of student areas funded by Newcastle and Northumbria universities

• Refunds for the first semester of rent in halls

• Increased spending on easily accessible mental health support

• Transparency around the universities plan to make campus Covid secure for the second semester

Students behind the “9k for what” movement told The Newcastle Tab: “We were lied to come up to Newcastle and told we would have a relatively normal uni experience and some face-to-face teaching, but there has been none.

“We are being given the education we are paying for, and while that is not the university’s fault entirely, our fees should reflect the education we are receiving.”

The students are furthermore striking due to the alleged harassment students have faced as a result of the City Council’s deployment of Covid marshals to police student areas such as Jesmond and Heaton.

The students said: “We need to act collectively to do something that will hold the uni to account for their treatment of us this semester. They have not protected or educated us, but harassed us and used us for profit.”

The rent strike is followed by the “9k for what” demonstration, which took place on October 31st, in order to voice student opinions on tuition fees and rent for this academic year.

A Newcastle University spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing our students with the best education and to ensuring our campus is a safe place for students and colleagues.

“Currently, all but essential teaching is being delivered online and we are focused on delivering a strong educational experience for every student as well as supporting their wellbeing through this extremely challenging time.

“We are acutely aware of how difficult this year has been for our students. We have put a range of additional support systems in place offering regular contact for any student who needs it, including a helpline, buddy system, additional counselling and 24/7 mental health support via Talk Campus. We have also invested in four additional mental health advisors and have worked with NUSU to fund additional support for students who are self-isolating.

“We have provided a significant amount of information for students on the arrangements in place to ensure the campus is as Covid secure as possible, and this information is available on our website. In addition to measures already in place, there is likely to be greater control of Covid infections through asymptomatic screening and a possible vaccination programme which means we can more confidently plan for more in person teaching activity on campus. We expect a staggered return to campus in January and for a blended learning experience (online and in person) in Semester 2.

“Operation Oak is a highly successful partnership between the two universities and Northumbria Police and was set up not just to deal with issues around anti-social behaviour but to provide wellbeing support, safeguarding, education and engagement for our students living out in the community. It is separate to the City Council’s Covid Marshals and following concerns raised by our students, we are working closely with the Council to look at how we address some of these concerns before next term.”

More information can be found on the ‘9k for what’ Instagram page.

The link to pledge as a rent-striker can be found here.

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