University students are furious over being “consistently let down” by Tories and vice chancellors during the pandemic.
Many students are only just heading back to halls, despite the fact the most universities’ terms are about to come to an end.
Yet while many weren’t able to return to accommodation during the lockdown, they still had to pay rent. A survey conducted by the NUS student union found students paid £1 billion for empty rooms in the last year.
Activists at four different universities in Sheffield, Manchester and Nottingham have occupied to demand bosses stop putting profit first.
Izzy is one of the 15 students occupying the Samuel Alexander building at the University of Manchester. “We are occupying again because we've been consistently let down,” she told Socialist Worker.
“We’ve been forced to pay extortionate rent and tuition fees for facilities we can’t access and are still having to face a police presence on our campuses.”
“Add to this poorly maintained accommodation with hot water shortages and rodent infestations,” she said.
Rent strikes at a number of universities forced some concessions.
For example, students in Manchester pushed their university bosses to concede a 30 percent rent reduction.
But students are determined to push for more, and some activists are escalating their protests.
Finn, a student at Sheffield Hallam University, is a part of a small group of students occupying the Owen Building on campus.
He explained that students have to escalate their demands. “We needed to go further than the rent strike we started in December,” Finn said. “We’ve been pushed into an occupation as the university and halls haven't listened to us so far.
“Our demands are for an open dialogue between the university and the rent strike group. And for the university to break agreements with accommodation providers if they don’t offer rebates for students who did not want to return.”
He added, “We also want the university to take sexual assault seriously as both the students and staff have had enough.”
A few miles from the Owen Building, students at Sheffield University are also in occupation—in the Arts Tower.
Students in both occupations have received solidarity from the UCU and NEU education unions.
Meanwhile, students have also occupied Nottingham university’s engineering and science building, with demands including tuition fee rebates and an end to job cuts.
Trade unionists, campaigners and socialists should build solidarity with all these fights.