Socialist Worker

Students revolt against being treated without dignity

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2734

Bristol rent strikers

Bristol rent strikers (Pic: Oran Quant-Epps)


University rent strikes are spreading after the success of students at Manchester university in forcing the administration to reduce their rent by 30 percent. 

In Bristol students organised a banner drop on Friday outside university accommodation to push for rent strikes and for an end to tuition fees. 

And in Manchester hundreds of students attended a rally and marched through the streets of the city to continue to call for better treatment of students by the university. 

Students said there was an "excessive" police presence with “mounted police, riot vans and tactical aid units” present. 

Rent strikes have also been announced at Sussex university, Nottingham university, Glasgow university, Manchester Metropolitan university, Oxford university and Goldsmiths university in south London. 

Over a week ago students at Cambridge university announced that they would be taking part in a rent strike. 

The students' demands include a 30 percent reduction in rent for the year and a permanent rent reduction, no staff jobs cuts and for there to be no disciplinary action taken against rent strikers. 

Nourhan is a first year student at Cambridge university who is taking part in the rent strike. She told Socialist Worker that bad conditions in the accommodation and the sense of isolation are pushing students to go on rent strike.  

“We’ve been offered no pastoral care while in lockdown. We’ve been completely neglected.

“In student accommodation we are being overly policed and security can be overly dramatic and heavy-handed especially when it comes to black students,” she said. 

Meals

And Nourhan added that students are struggling financially. “I know people who are skipping meals or their friends are buying them food because they can’t afford it. 

“You don’t expect this kind of thing from a prestigious university like Cambridge, but the experience of working class students here is very different from the rich ones,” she said. 

At Queen Mary university in east London students held a protest on Wednesday to highlight what they said was appalling treatment by the university. 

Most of the students who joined the protest were first years who have already been confined to their rooms for months. 

Alice who is a first year at the university told Socialist Worker, “The university promised us blended learning, They made campus sound safe. 

She added that the university is making it difficult for students to be released from rent contracts if they no longer want to stay in university accommodation. 

“People are trying to move out, and they are even finding others to replace them. But the university is moving new people into empty rooms so the original tenant has to keep on paying.

“I know people who are now living from home and still having to pay the rent.” 

Australia

And Sym who is also a first year told Socialist Worker that they had moved from Australia to attend the university but now face the prospect of not being able to go back any time soon. 

“I booked a flight worth hundreds of pounds and paid thousands for accommodation under the assurance that the campus would be safe. 

“Now because I'm not a citizen of Australia, I can’t go back and that's where my family is. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see them again.” 

Sammy, who also attended the protest said that university cafes are still open despite restrictions while students are being fined for going to other students' flats. 

Rent strikes spread after student win at Manchester university
Rent strikes spread after student win at Manchester university
  Read More

“The Curve cafe is still open for people to sit inside, and it is always packed. They are keeping it open to make profits. 

“It makes me angry that students can mix there but not in each other's flats, it just doesn’t make sense,” they told Socialist Worker. 

All of the students at the protest at Queen Mary were calling for a rent strike. 

Sym said the actions in Manchester showed them what can be achieved. 

“It has been a real morale boost to see what happened in Manchester. It also says that when we unite together we can achieve things.” 

“We have to push for rent strikes but we must push for other things. We must push for there to be no job losses for any staff and more support for students, especially around mental health.” 

And Nourhan in Cambridge said, ”students are fed up. Not just with their universities but with the government as well.

“I think many of us are feeling like we are being robbed of our dignity. I think it's inevitable that more universities will push for rent strikes”

 


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