Ben HaywardOctober 27th
2020

Over 200 University of Manchester first-year students are withholding over £300,000 in a halls of residence rent strike.

The move comes as students cite issues including poor online learning facilities, a lack of university support, and a general feeling that they wouldn’t have come to university if they’d been fully informed of changes beforehand.

As part of the rent strike, the students are also asking for a reduction in accommodation fees for the rest of the year.

According to The Manchester Tab, who spoke to some of the student organisers of the strike, one student said ‘being at uni feels like worse than being at home’. She said her halls room has bad WiFi, no access to a printer and a small desk, making it feel as though they’re paying full fees to ‘have access to fewer things and have a worse experience’.

Other issues highlighted by the group include problems with online learning, such as lecturers still not being able to work out how properly to use Zoom.

One student organiser of the strike says she - along with numerous of her peers - have felt ‘massively unsupported’ since term began in September. “We were promised a situation which would be Covid-secure and with stuff in place for online learning,” she says. “But that hasn’t exactly happened.”

One example she gave was a friend of hers who studies music, and hasn’t been able to access the studios she needs to practice in. As a result she’s had to move home in order to properly do her course, all while paying rent for an unused room in Manchester.

The demands of the strikers include at least a 40% reduction in accommodation fees for the remainder of the academic year; to offer all students no-penalty early release clause from their tenancy contracts for both this year and the next academic years; improve the standard of support for students in halls of residence (this includes day-to-day support such as mental health, and also comprehensive COVID support packages for flats isolating); no penalties for those rent-striking.

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “We have put in place a comprehensive support package for all students who are self-isolating, which includes a partnership with a major food retailer, delivery of parcels, wellbeing support, and assistance with practical matters such as arranging for laundry and prescription medicines.

“All students have been sent this information which includes clear guidance on the circumstances under which they are able to leave their accommodation whilst self-isolating.”

“We continue to provide support for all students in our halls of residence, and students can contact their local ResLife team for help and advice, at any time.”

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