Sheffield Uni students threaten rent strike to demand refund and better treatment

They’re poised to hold out paying rent in January

Furious students at the University of Sheffield have come together to lobby the university for a reduction in rent fees in the wake of major protests at the University of Manchester.

The grassroots organisation, known as “Sheffield Cut the Rent”,  was born following problems such as an increase in Sheffessions posts about mental health, problems in uni accommodation and frustration with the way courses are being handled.

The group’s demands include a rent reduction of at least 30 per cent for the remainder of the academic year and the offer to all students of a no-penalty early release clause from their tenancy contracts.

Also on the list is better provisions during isolation periods (improved access to mental health support, food packages and laundry services), and for the university to acknowledge its lack of effective support that has been offered to students and pledge to change this moving forward.

In certain courses, content has been cut drastically in order to aid the move to online delivery due to coronavirus restrictions.

Many students believe this warrants a reduction in university tuition fees as they are not being taught as much as students in previous years.

One medicine student told The Tab: “Future GPs are having their experience cut, they spend eight hours looking at a screen in their rooms with temperamental Wi-Fi and grainy videos, having only attended a fraction of the dissections usually necessary in a medicine course so far.”

Politics students have also voiced frustration with a severe lack of teaching staff and face-to-face lessons in a degree that already has few opportunities for face to face teaching.

“It’s ridiculous that I only get 45 minutes of actual teaching every two weeks. I spend all my time reading for the course in my room and I barely know anyone else taking the course as a result. It doesn’t feel like any staff are available to help me either,” said one politics student.

The university has agreed to refund students in university accommodation for the last two weeks of semester one, but students say this is not good enough.

The organisation is growing rapidly and primed to officially announce a rent strike in time for the next rent payment in January.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: “We understand this has been an incredibly difficult year for all of our students. Delivering an excellent education while doing all we can to ensure the safety of our students and staff has remained our top priority.

“We recognise the value of on-campus learning and have worked within government guidelines to provide as much face-to-face teaching as possible. Our staff have worked hard to prepare the best teaching and learning resources, enabling a flexible approach to the delivery of blended learning via a combination of on-campus teaching and digital delivery, making it possible for students to continue to receive a high quality education.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have been working closely with the Students’ Union to ensure we are supporting students in the best possible way. All of our support services are open and available online. Students who are self-isolating are offered a fast track to mental health support. We also contact all students who have notified us that they are self-isolating to check on their welfare and offer practical and emotional support. All students also have 24/7 access to emotional and mental health advice through the TogetherAll service.

“As part of our continued efforts to enhance our support provision in line with changing circumstances, the University has also established a new £3 million Covid-19 Support Fund for any students who are facing particular challenges, for example to help with costs incurred to improve IT connectivity for studying remotely. Due to the government’s guidance that students should travel home earlier than planned, all students living in University owned or managed accommodation, whether traveling home or not, will also not be charged rent for the two week period from 5-18 December, with this amount automatically deducted from the next accommodation payment.

“We will continue listening to our students and reviewing the issues they raise, as well as working with the Students’ Union to ensure we are providing students with the most effective and appropriate support.”

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