350 students did not pay their January rent to the University of Manchester, according to the organisers of UoM rent strike. The group claim to have withheld a total of half a million in rent as a protest against “unaffordable fees”, although the University dispute these figures.
The group demanded a 30% rent reduction, including a rebate on the previous rent payment, and a cap on rent for the next three years.
Additionally, they have called for the university to work towards student halls which meet the definition of affordable housing provided by the National Union of Students (NUS). The NUS defines “affordable” as 25% of university bed spaces available at 50% of the highest possible student maintenance loan available.
However, according to one of the organisers, Fraser McGuire, while the University has been ringing people to force them to pay their rent, there has been no attempt by the university to negotiate formally.
McGuire told The Mancunion that if the University were to continue not to negotiate, there would be “appetite” for continuing the strike in the summer months.
“Looking at the rent strike last time, it went on for two payments, and the first time they did it, they only had 150. Compared to the rent strike last time, we’re in a much stronger position”.
This is not the first time University of Manchester students have gone on rent strike. In the academic year 2020/2021, rent strikes resulted in a multi-million pound win. It inspired other rent strikes around the country, which totalled over £100 million.
This has been a reason to participate for some of those involved. One participant in the rent strikes, Wolfie Mcleish told Novara Media that there was a “massive sense of empowerment” that previous students “sleeping in the same beds [won] their strike against the university”.
For the organisers, this is not an isolated incident, but a wider symptom of the cost-of-living crisis. McGuire said “I think it is the same struggle [as the UCU strikes]”.
“Not only have students been inspired by the industrial action that’s been taken, that shows that collective action can be successful, but we’re also fighting the same battle – the marketisation of higher education […] we’re fighting those treating staff and students as financial assets”.
A University spokesperson said: “Whilst there are always reasons why rent payments are not received when they are due, the rate of payment in the most recent collection was consistent with those both in this and previous years. We are here to help and have contacted students about payment options and support. Participation figures of the rent campaign quoted by students are not correct as they are based on people filling in an open form online and guesses about costs this incurs to the University.
“We have provided special Cost of Living payments to students recently in recognition of the pressures many are facing. Every full-time student has received a special £170 payment and can apply for grants of up to £2000. This totals £9m.
“We also share concerns with students that the recent increase in maintenance loans falls far short of keeping pace with inflation
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