The University of Bath’s Student Union has officially endorsed a ‘Cut the Rent’ campaign, which is fighting the increased costs of student accommodation at the university.
This comes as management at the University of Bath seeks to raise extra revenue from student housing and other areas to counter cuts in public funding.
Campaigners say the university has increased the proportion of luxury student accommodation while at the same time admitting more students. This has led to the increase in demand but a reduction in supply of affordable student housing. Luxury accommodation on the University campus costs up to £154 a week to rent.
Since the current Vice Chancellor came to office in 2001, university-owned accommodation rent is reported to have increased 150%. Now, only two student halls, Osbourne House and Eastwood, provide rooms that have a total cost lower than 50% of the maximum maintenance loan a student can receive.
As the cost of living and student debt levels rise, The National Union of Students are concerned that higher rent prices coupled with the privatisation of building student accommodation is piling more financial pressure on students.
Ross West, a second year student reading Politics & International Relations at Bath University said: “The cost of rent in Bath is increasingly becoming a barrier to equal access in education.
“Coming from a low-income background myself, it’s easy to see why any students who cannot rely on their parents for financial support are discouraged from entering university.”
According to Lloyds Bank, Bath is the 5th least affordable city in the UK. 2015 research by BathImpact, the student newspaper, found the average student at the University of Bath spent £4,320 on rent when the average maintenance loan was just £3,920.
Last year, a NUS study showed that student mental health issues caused by financial problems have risen exponentially since 2012. Graduates who graduated in 2016 paying fees of £9,000 a year left University with an average of £44,000 of debt, compared to an average of £16,400 five years earlier.
The Cut the Rent campaign found that the University of Bath has exceeded its target operating surplus every year since the target was first set in 2012. The campaign says the University has ample headroom to reduce rents in University managed accommodation without reducing spending in other areas.
The campaign is demanding the SU becomes active in campaigning for reduced rents and issues a statement opposing rising rent prices and the increasing privatisation of accommodation provision.
Clémentine Boucher, a final year student at Bath University and Cut the Rent campaigner said: “I want students in Bath to be galvanised by the example of students in London campaigning successfully for reduced rents.
“The SU adopting the policy is only the first step. Radical student led political action is the most potent weapon we have to achieve fairer rents at Bath University.”