University students in Manchester have threatened a rent strike after being told to pay up to £3,000 for accommodation even though they cannot return to campus during lockdown.
Like students elsewhere in the country, thousands of Manchester students face being stuck at home while being forced to continue paying for university accommodation, even though halls of residence are in many cases off-limits to them.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he would ‘have a look at the issue’ of student rent, but students at both the University of Manchester and Salford University are furious.
One first-year Salford student is among many stuck with paying £133 a week for a room on her campus said there was talk among other would-be graduates of a ‘rent strike’.
It comes after University of Manchester students barricaded themselves inside a university building to protest about being forced to carry on paying rent during the November lockdown.
A week previously, Manchester students tore down metal barricades which had been installed around their accommodation.
University students in Manchester have threatened a rent strike after being told to pay up to £3,000 for accommodation even though they cannot return to campus during lockdown. Pictured: A previous rent strike by University of Manchester students in November
The student, Frances Woodford, who has a room in Salford’s Peel Park accommodation, told the Manchester Evening News that she and her fellow students are ‘not standing for this anymore’.
‘I know a lot of people who don’t get enough maintenance grants to pay their rent and can’t get jobs so are having to rely on their parents to pay for accommodation they can’t even use,’ she said.
‘There has been talk of a rent strike if nothing is done.’
She claimed there had been ‘issues with the bins’ and ‘mould in our flats’ and added the rent issue was the ‘last straw’.
Ms Woodford’s accommodation is run by private provider Campus Living Villages (CLV).
The next instalment of rent, which is reportedly around £2,000 for most students, is due on January 12.
An email from CLV allegedly says that students’ obligation to to continue paying rent is ‘legally binding’.
It adds that rent ‘must be made on the dates provided’ and continues that for students receiving student finance payments, ‘there is no legal argument for you not to pay rents’.
First-year University of Salford student Frances Woodford is among many stuck with paying £133 a week for a room on her campus said there was talk among other would-be graduates of a ‘rent strike’. Another Salford student, Alex Greaves (right), 20, said university bosses need to ‘understand the situation and take some responsibility’
Ms Woodford is paying for a room at Salford University’s Peel Park accommodation, pictured above
Campus Living Villages has been approached for comment by MailOnline.
A spokesman told the MEN that they had not told residents to leave accommodation and that their ‘villages’ remained open.
Another Salford student, Alex Greaves, 20, said university bosses needed to ‘understand the situation and take some responsibility’.
A University of Salford spokesman told the MEN that students were in an ‘extremely difficult position’ regarding rent payments for accommodation which they’ve been told by the Government that they can’t use.
They added that they are as ‘frustrated as the students’ with the ‘short notice’ and ‘lack of detail’ from the Government.
In November, University of Manchester students (one pictured above during the sit-in) barricaded themselves inside university building Owens Park tower in Fallowfield to protest at being charged full rent fees
Last month, the University of Manchester gave all students in its halls a 30 per cent rent discount for the autumn term.
It came after some barricaded themselves inside a campus building in November after being asked to pay full rent during lockdown.
University bosses also agreed to allow students to cancel their accommodation contracts without penalty if they wished.
The university has yet to outline their policy for rents for the new term which are due to be paid on January 21.
Students are said to be demanding no fees for weeks where they’ve been told not to return to campus.
A university spokesman said: ‘We understand these continue to be challenging and uncertain times for our students.
‘The 30 per cent reduction in rent is for semester one which runs up to 31 January.
‘All students in our halls of residence have the option to break their licence agreement with us at any time without penalty.
Students Fallowfield also tore down metal barriers which were put up around their accommodation block in November
‘As a University we will carry on supporting our students in every way we can, whether they’re on campus, in our accommodation or now studying from home.’
Some students at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)) are calling for rent reductions at both university and private accommodation.
Another petition, which has been signed by more than 12,000 people, targets MMU accommodation provider Unite Students.
The petition says: ‘We are students, teenagers stuck in our rooms/flats being told not to go into uni and not to socialise with anyone.
‘Yes we have a contract with them but this is NOT right.
‘There is security at every entrance of every building checking if we live here or not. Communal areas being shut.
It adds: ‘WE ARE BEING TREATED LIKE PRISONERS.’
Unite has been approached for comment.
An MMU spokesperson said a rent collection scheduled for January 13 will be moved to the end of the month.
They added that a rent reduction would be implemented for students in university-owned accommodation.
Mr Johnson addressed the issue of student rents at Tuesday’s Downing Street press conference.
He said: ‘What we hope is that they (students) will get online learning that will allow them to continue with their degree courses, but clearly there are going to be issues to do with the cost of their accommodation that we will have to look at as a Government and see what arrangements the universities are making to deal with the reasonable concerns of many, many students.’
Earlier in November, Fallowfield students described how they awoke in ‘a box surrounded by strangers’ after their university put up fencing around their halls without telling them. Undergraduates ripped down the metal posts after they were set up on the first day of England’s November lockdown
In November, University of Manchester students barricaded themselves inside a university building to protest at being charged full rent fees.
The 15 students, most of whom were first-year students, said at the time that they had enough supplies to ‘occupy’ the top floor of Owens Park tower in Fallowfield for several weeks.
They lit smoke flares and draped banners from the windows of the accommodation bloc.
The protesters demanded a meeting with the university’s vice chancellor, Dame Nancy Rothwell, as well as a rent and tuition fee reduction.
Earlier in November, Fallowfield students described how they awoke in ‘a box surrounded by strangers’ after their university put up fencing around their halls without telling them.
Undergraduates ripped down the metal posts after they were set up on the first day of England’s November lockdown.
Crowds trampled on the barrier and set off flares in fury at not being informed of the new measures.
Manchester University announced an inquiry after the fences were erected around the student halls that were set up as a ‘security measure’ to ‘help avoid mixing with households’.