In 2008 we bailed out the banks. We now face the biggest financial crisis in a generation, with record youth unemployment. Who will bail out young people? Refinery29 and VICE are joining the NUS to call for all students to be offered rent rebates, and asking the government to bring back maintenance grants for students from low income backgrounds.
While students do the right thing and stay local to stop the spread of coronavirus, what happens to the rent that’s due on their empty room in halls, gathering dust while university remains an entirely digital offering?
Many students have successfully lobbied via their unions to avoid paying full rent for the university-owned halls they’re not able to live in. To find out more, VICE contacted 126 universities in England to find out which discounts, rebates, waivers and refunds they might be offering to students who have followed the government guidance and not returned to uni.
Of the 118 who responded to VICE’s request for comment or had information available, 95 universities own their own student accommodation and are in a position to take responsibility for rent charges. Twenty-five universities will not charge necessarily absent students a penny of rent for the entirety of this lockdown, however long that may be. A further 27 are offering full discounts on rent for periods between seven to 15 weeks, while seven are offering a full discount to run for up to six weeks.
Rent reductions are available from 23 universities, and another four have provided limited one-off payments to students. Only one university hadn’t, at the time of publication, decided on the exact terms of its offering.
Four universities are offering a combination of rent reductions and waivers, and a further six are making offers not only to the students who’ve not been able to live in halls because of the lockdown, but those who have been bereft of an authentic student experience while in residence.
A few notes before we begin:
The situation is in flux and many universities are working on what support looks like should the lockdown continue. Universities have been provided hardship funds by the government to provide for particularly vulnerable students, and many are lobbying the private sector to do right by their students.
Unless otherwise stated, all details below refer to students who are contracted to live in uni-owned accommodation they have been advised not to return to due to the third coronavirus lockdown, which began in December of 2020.
Some of these schemes are automatic, others must be applied for.
THE UNIVERSITIES GIVING STUDENTS A ONE-OFF PAYMENT
Goldsmiths, University of London
£500,000 will to go towards waiving up to six weeks’ worth of accommodation fees per student, from the period of the 4th of January to the 15th of February 2021.
“To date, the university has provided two £400 goodwill payments for students unable to return to their accommodation because of government COVID restrictions. This is in addition to accommodation fee reductions in 2020 for some students.”
“In recognition of the challenges the lockdown has presented for our resident students, we have already provided all students who have a university accommodation contract with a deduction of £750 from their accommodation fees as a goodwill gesture.”
University of Salford
“The university will be making a payment to Campus Living Villages to the value of up to £1,200 per student. Students in privately rented accommodation can apply for up to £1,000 from the Rent Relief Fund if they meet the eligibility criteria.”
THE UNIVERSITIES WAIVING LESS THAN SEVEN WEEKS’ WORTH OF RENT
Harper Adams University
Four weeks of rent is waived: students “will receive rent refunds for the period between the beginning of the Spring term [18 January] and 20 February”.
Six weeks’ rent is waived “from 4 January 2021 – 14 February 2021 and may be for a longer period if the lockdown is extended by the Government”.
University of Derby
Six weeks’ rent is waived between the 11th of January and the 22nd of February, 2021: “Students will only be charged for the time they have used their accommodation, and a reduction to reflect this, of up to six weeks rent, will be applied to their account in April.”
University of Kent
“You will be able to complete a simple form to apply for the equivalent of a six-week reduction of your second term accommodation fee.”
University of the West of England, Bristol
“UWE Bristol is offering a six-week refund for students”
The rent reduction scheme applies to the period between the 4th of January and the 22nd of February, 2021, “and is equivalent to a six-week reduction on the termly accommodation fee”.
THE UNIVERSITIES WIPING SEVEN WEEKS OF RENT
Arts University Bournemouth
“All students with an AUB accommodation contract will be receiving a seven-week full discount.”
UPDATE 18/02/21: AUB has now made available its CV-19 Private Rented Housing Support Fund, to provide students living in private housing a one-off payment to help with their rent. Applications are open until 5PM on Friday the 12th of March, and the funding will be allocated equally among all eligible applicants, with confirmation on Friday the 26th of March and payment shortly after that.
“Those applying will need to be engaging with their course at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, and they’ll need to provide a copy of their 2020/21 formal tenancy agreement. Applicants do not need to currently be residing at this address in order to apply.”
London South Bank University
“For students not currently in halls we will waive seven weeks’ accommodation fees (4 January - 21 February). Additionally, those in halls who want to terminate their contract once lockdown is over won’t be penalised.”
Royal Agricultural University
“A refund will be provided … for the period Sunday 3 January to Saturday 20 February 2021.”
University of Central Lancashire
“We have decided to issue a rent rebate equivalent to seven weeks”
University of Oxford
“We have also agreed to temporarily waive licence fee payments for those who are unable to return to their UPP-managed halls accommodation during the current national lockdown, which came into effect on 6 January 2021. This is known as a licence fee suspension (or halls fee waiver). The waiver will cover the national lockdown from 6 January until 22 February.”
University of Sheffield
“The University of Sheffield will not be charging rent to students … between 4 January to 22 February.”
York St John University
“We have offered a full rent credit for up to seven weeks for students in university owned or managed accommodation.”
University of the Arts, London
“We will waive seven weeks accommodation fees for any student with a current tenancy agreement for the full year who does not use their room during the period of national lockdown in England.”
University of Bath
“We have decided to offer a full rent rebate from 4 January to 14 February”
THE UNIVERSITIES WIPING EIGHT WEEKS OF RENT
“We have launched a two-month rent payment holiday scheme”, meaning students will live in accommodation rent-free in March and April.
Liverpool Hope University
Students “have been given a rent holiday of eight weeks”. Additionally, “If a student needs to extend the use of their accommodation beyond the end date of their contract, to finish, for example, research projects, practical work, design and art projects, or placements, there will be no further charge for that accommodation.”
University of Hull
"The University of Hull is waiving accommodation fees for the eight-week period from January 4 to February 28.”
University of Warwick
The initial rent waiver period was from the 9th of January to the 13th of February, and “only those who applied for the original rent waiver are eligible to apply for the rent waiver extension. The extended waiver will be for an additional three weeks up to 6 March 2021.”
University of Northampton
“Students … have been eligible for full rent refunds for the beginning of January onwards. The refunds for eligible students are now expected to cover the period up to March 2021, on the provision the property has remained vacant.”
University of Leeds
Students unable to occupy their university-allocated accommodation can apply for a rent refund for the period from the 11th of January to the 8th of March.
THE UNIVERSITIES WIPING NINE WEEKS OF RENT
Nottingham Trent University
“Students … will not be required to pay accommodation rents from Monday 4 January up to and including Sunday 7 March 2021.”
University of Birmingham
“The full rebate period is 11 January 2021 to 7 March 2021 (inclusive)” for those who applied by the 20th of January.
University of East London
The University of East London has offered a rent rebate to residential students who have been off campus between the 4th of January to the 15th of February, and due to additional OfS Funding this will be extended to the 8th of March.
University College Birmingham
UCB will not be charging for accommodation between the 5th of January and the 7th of March if the student is not occupying the room, or if their course is not offering in-person teaching. They will keep this policy “under review depending on government announcements on teaching restarting”.
University of Exeter
“The accommodation fee waiver will cover the extended period of the national lockdown, during which many students have been asked by government not to return to term-time accommodation. This period began on 4 January and is now expected to stay in place until 8 March at the earliest.”
THE UNIVERSITIES WIPING TEN WEEKS OF RENT
Bath Spa University
“The university is offering a full rebate for the period 4 January to 8 March 2021.”
Bishop Grosseteste University
“We have cancelled charges for all our on-campus and university owned accommodation that has not been used between 4 January and 8 March (the current predicted period of lockdown).”
THE UNIVERSITIES WIPING 11 WEEKS OF RENT
University of Liverpool
“Students will be able to claim for any dates between 3 – 18 December 2020 and 4 January to 19 March 2021 that fall within a single period of leave.”
THE UNIVERSITIES WIPING 12 WEEKS OF RENT
University of Bristol
“We have agreed that students … will receive a full rent rebate from 1 February until the start of the student spring vacation on 26 March, or an earlier date if students are permitted to travel to their University accommodation.”
University of East Anglia
An initial eight-week rebate during January and February “has been extended to a twelve-week rebate”.
University of Southampton
“The University of Southampton is providing a rebate…[it] will cover the period 4th January to 10th April.”
THE UNIVERSITIES WIPING 15 WEEKS OF RENT
University College, London
“UCL will reimburse you for the time that you have not resided in UCL Accommodation over the winter closure period and up to Sunday 24 April 2021.”
University of Reading
“We’ve … extended the Halls fees waiver until 16 April (i.e. the whole Spring term).”
THE UNIVERSITIES WIPING ALL RENT THROUGHOUT LOCKDOWN, HOWEVER LONG IT MIGHT LAST
The University of Westminster
“The University of Westminster is not currently charging students with contracts in University owned residences for any period they cannot stay in their accommodation.”
London School of Economics
“Students who are not returning…due to government advice or travel difficulties…will have their accommodation fees waived until the date they return.”
Anglia Ruskin University
'“We have therefore offered all students in university-owned and university-managed accommodation a fee waiver on their rent if they are not currently using their room.”
“Brunel has invested in a package of support for students, including waiving rent for students who can’t use their room on campus because of Government lockdown restrictions.”
De Montfort University
“100% rebate on rent for all students staying in halls owned and run by DMU while they are unable to use their accommodation during this period of national lockdown. This will apply from 11 January and we also commit to extending this rebate if the national restrictions are prolonged.”
Imperial College London
“We are not charging rent to students who are unable to return to their halls of residence […] Imperial’s teaching will remain online until early March at the earliest for all except a few medical and healthcare-related degree programmes.”
“Any students in a University halls of residence who are unable to and do not return to halls during the national lockdown have been given a fee rebate. This was announced at the start of the lockdown and will remain in place until the national situation for higher education changes.”
Manchester Metropolitan University
“Rent refunded for the period between 4 January 2021 and your eventual return date.”
“We are offering a full rent reduction to all students in Teesside University-owned accommodation who have not been able to return to their property due to the ongoing national lockdown.”
University for the Creative Arts
“We are waiving fees for UCA accommodation for the period of lockdown.”
University of Cambridge
“Colleges will not charge students who are not able to return to Cambridge as a result of the current government legislation and guidance.”
University of Chester
“The University of Chester has informed its students that it will not be charging rent for University-owned accommodation while their rooms are unoccupied. The University and Chester Students’ Union have also urged private landlords to be similarly sympathetic if possible and a number of the larger purpose built student accommodation providers have already agreed.”
University of Essex
“For students who have not yet moved into University accommodation…accommodation charges for the Spring Term will only commence from the point that you move in.”
University of Greenwich
“In the event of the university moving to a completely virtual campus because of COVID-19, you will be released from your requirement to pay for halls during any period when only remote teaching and activities are in place, provided keys are returned and your room is vacated during this period.”
University of Manchester
“Students living in University accommodation who have not returned to that accommodation since the national lockdown announcement on 5 January will not pay any rent until the end of the current restrictions or the date that they return to their accommodation in Manchester.”
University of Sussex
“Students allocated university accommodation who are not able to travel back to Sussex due to the current government restrictions will not be charged rent.”
University of Worcester
Students “will be able to apply for a full, 100% rental charge reduction for your residential accommodation fee during this ‘lockdown’ period. The reduction will cover the period from when it began on 5 January, until the lockdown ends, assuming that you have not been in residence for any part of the period.”
University of York
“You will … be credited for the time you have not used your accommodation during the period of national lockdown, starting from 11 January 2021.”
Leeds Trinity University
“Students who live in halls of residence on the Leeds Trinity University campus and are unable to move back into their accommodation for the new (third) lockdown period due to government restrictions will receive a 100% rent credit for this period.”
“The University has offered students … the option to pause rent payments for the duration of the lockdown period. We are also encouraging private sector landlords to take a similar stance.
“If [students] are unable to return to their accommodation but would like to take it up when lockdown ends we will offer them a rebate on the period they do not use. If students do not wish to return to their accommodation at all we can offer them a rebate until the end of the summer term.”
“Any student in University or managed accommodation won’t be charged for the weeks they are not in Newcastle.”
University of Surrey
“We offered full rent credits to all students not resident in their University rented accommodation from 4 January, to cover the current lockdown. A further rent credit will be offered to students whose courses are not returning to face to face learning from next week.”
Plymouth Marjon University
“Where students are normally resident on campus, and have been stopped by the national lockdown from travelling back and living in their accommodation, you will not have to pay rent for the period of the national lockdown. If the lockdown extends, this will be extended.”
“We will be providing a full rent rebate to those students who have rooms in on-campus accommodation who are not able to access their accommodation as a result of the government restrictions in place. This rebate will cover the period from 4th January 2021 and continue until the current lockdown restrictions are removed, at which time we will review the position and provide a further update.
“Following the Government's announcement that the return of more students to university cannot be allowed until March 8th at the earliest, we have extended our full rent rebate until March 7th. In addition, our Vice-Chancellor has written to private landlords in the area urging them to match the University's position where they can.”
THE UNIVERSITIES OFFERING A PARTIAL DISCOUNT, DETAILS CLEAR
A 50 percent “accommodation rent credit”, initially intended for the five-week period from the 11th of January to the 18th of February has now been extended three more weeks, to the 5th of March.
At present, students renting with the University’s own halls or with Unite are eligible for a 50 percent refund for up to seven weeks if they have vacated their room during the current lockdown.
University of Bedfordshire
“At present, students renting with the University’s own halls or with Unite are eligible for a 50 percent refund for up to seven weeks if they have vacated their room during the current lockdown.”
University of London (including King’s College, Royal Academy of Music, Queen Mary, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Royal Holloway)
Students will be charged £25 per week for an eight-week period beginning on the 5th of January. They also have “the option to terminate their contract without penalty if they no longer wish to return to London for the remainder of the academic year”.
“We have offered an 80 percent rent rebate for the [nine week] period 5 January 2021 to 8 March 2021.”
Oxford Brookes University
“We have written to students in University-managed accommodation to confirm that [students] will have a 50% reduction applied to their rent for the lockdown period.”
University of Hertfordshire
“If, for the duration of the lockdown, you prefer to stay at home, or elsewhere, but leave your belongings in your University room, you can apply to receive a 50% reduction of your accommodation fees. The length of time of the lockdown will be defined by the University, by reference to the full lockdown period imposed by the Government. Any reduction will be limited to a maximum of 6 weeks in total during the 21/22 academic year.”
University of Portsmouth
“We have offered an 80 percent rent reduction to students unable to use their University-owned halls, which will be backdated to 4 January 2021. This reduction will continue until the Government advice changes and we are able to resume face-to-face teaching more widely.”
University of Winchester
There is a “Reduction of 50% for students who are not in their residence but retain use and occupation of their rooms by leaving their possessions in place.” Plus, a “reduction of 100% for students who have left their residences, cleared their rooms and given up occupation for a temporary period”.
University of Chichester
There will be a “50 per cent reduction on accommodation fees. This is applicable from 18th January and will continue until students in University accommodation are permitted to return by the Government.”
University of Lincoln
“We are reducing the second rent instalment due this month (to be collected from the 20th of January onwards) by 20%.”
THE UNIVERSITIES OFFERING A PARTIAL DISCOUNT, DETAILS MISSING
City, University of London
“Our students who are in Unite and IQ properties have access to discounts in place until at least 15th February. We continue to discuss the situation with all providers as we appreciate students would like the discounts and arrangements to go further.” It is not known what these discounts are.
University of Sunderland
Students have been offered “a net rent reduction of their accommodation costs for the period from Monday 4 January until Friday 5 March”. It is not known what this reduction is worth.
University of Brighton
“We will be offering students who have not been able to return to University managed accommodation a rent rebate.” It is not known what this rebate is worth.
“We have offered a 50% discount for a determined period of time to our students who have been unable to make use of their university-managed accommodation, and have appealed to other private accommodation providers to offer what financial relief they can to students during these continued challenging times.“ It is not known what this determined period of time is.
University of Leicester
“Students in University of Leicester-owned halls of residence who have not made any use of their accommodation since the commencement of the third national lockdown will receive a rent rebate, as communicated to students in January.” It is not known how much this rebate is worth.
"The University will reduce College residence charges for days that College rooms are unoccupied. The usual February payment for accommodation fees will not be taken from any student.” It is not known what this reduction will be and how unusual this year’s February payment will be.
Leeds Beckett University
“If students are not currently occupying their university accommodation they are eligible for a rent adjustment. This rent adjustment is based on the current delay to their return to campus and the stay at home restrictions imposed by the Government as a result of the national lockdown.”
The university has said it will cancel rents, but asked for government help as doing so will be a “significant financial cost”. The university did not respond to VICE’s request for comment.
THE UNIVERSITIES DOING SOMETHING EXTRA SPECIAL
Buckinghamshire New University
“We will not charge rent from 11 January until 28 February.” Additionally, charges for the 2020/21 academic year were reduced by 10 to 30 percent.
Rents for the 2020/21 academic year were frozen at 2019/20 prices, plus a 20 percent discount, while the university has “given refunds to students not in accommodation for January and February”.
“During the 2019/20 academic year, we refunded students for the costs of on-campus accommodation and livery [horse stables; Hartpury specialises in “agriculture, animal, equine, sport and veterinary nursing” sectors] for the first lockdown period. We fully expect to do so again this year. Due to the continued and ongoing national changes, assessment for these refunds will be made after Easter, with adjustments made to the end of each individual payment plan.”
Royal Veterinary College
“For students with off-campus courses who have not returned for Term 2, we have chosen to waive fees for our own accommodation and, in these circumstances, will also cover the cost of RVC contracted third-party providers.”
THE UNIVERSITIES OFFERING DISCOUNTS TO STUDENTS WHO HAVE BEEN IN RESIDENCE, AND THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN LIVING AWAY FROM UNI
University of Gloucestershire
Students will be given the equivalent of a six-week waiver of rent, working out to a 15 percent reduction on the total annual cost of uni accommodation. “This applies to all students in a full year contract in University managed halls, irrespective of whether they have or have not been in residence.”
Southampton Solent University
“Those students who left halls for the winter break and have not yet been able to return have been credited for their accommodation payments between 4 January and 21 February. Those students who had already returned received a 30% discount on their payments for the same period.”
“Students living in University accommodation have had a discount of 50 percent applied to their contracts since January [for at least a nine-week period until the 8th of March]. This is regardless of whether students are residing currently in halls or not.”
Birmingham City University
The uni “will waive accommodation fees…for the duration of the current period of lockdown”. Additionally, “students who [had] already returned to their rooms or remained in the halls over Christmas will be given a discount of £50 per week to cover the period of restrictions.”
Edge Hill University
“Edge Hill students have not been charged for any period when the government has imposed guidelines that have meant they are unable to occupy their accommodation. All students were not charged from January 5th to January 24th regardless of whether they were living in their accommodation or not.”
University of Wolverhampton
“The University is not charging rent for students unable to use rooms in its University accommodation for the duration of the current period of lockdown (from 1 January until 8 March at the earliest). Students who have already returned to their rooms or remained in halls over Christmas are receiving a 25% discount for the same duration.”
THE UNIVERSITIES WHOSE PLANS ARE TBC
Canterbury Christ Church University
“We will be looking to provide an appropriate and fair rebate on their accommodation fees for this lockdown period.”
THE UNIVERSITIES WHO DID NOT RESPOND TO VICE’S REQUEST FOR COMMENT
Norwich University of the Arts
University of Suffolk
University of West London
Writtle University College
University of Buckingham
University of Nottingham
St Mary’s University
THE UNIVERSITIES WHICH DON’T OWN ANY STUDENT ACCOMMODATION
Birkbeck, University of London
“Most of our students are mature learners and study in the evenings. We don't have any Birkbeck-owned accommodation.”
Courtauld Institute of Art
Liverpool John Moores University
“Unfortunately, students who have accommodation booked for the current academic year in a private hall, flat or house cannot cancel their tenancy agreement before the official end date without the agreement of their Hall operator or landlord. In addition, students do not have any legal right to receive a rent rebate for any period when they are not living in the accommodation.
“Hall operators and landlords may choose to offer residents the option of cancelling tenancies early and/or they may offer a partial rent refund. Some are already offering limited rebates to tenants and an updated list of these firms can be seen on the Liverpool Student Homes website.”
Leeds Arts University
“Leeds Arts University does not own any student accommodation so does not receive any income from it, therefore the issue of accommodation cost refunds is a matter of the individual contract between the student and provider. However, we have increased our hardship funds for students as we realise this is a very difficult time for many.”
London Metropolitan University
"London Met does not own or operate any halls of residences, and the majority of our students live in private or family accommodation in London all year-round. We deeply empathise with students that have found the past year challenging, and we have provided additional pastoral support and significant extra funding to our hardship fund.”
University of Huddersfield
“We are establishing a specialist hardship fund focused on rent related hardship with a short application process.” Details are being confirmed.
University of Law
“The University of Law does not offer student accommodation.”
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Soas is working with local private landlords to ensure students are being supported pastorally during lockdown.
St George’s, University of London
“Only a small percentage of our students live in halls and the majority of our programmes have resumed on site. Therefore, we are not currently providing blanket refunds to students living in halls.”
AECC University College
"Being a specialist health science university … our courses have a high practical element … meaning students would need to return to Bournemouth to their student accommodation to continue their course. Being a smaller institution, we do not have our own halls of residence…therefore reducing rents is not within our capacity.”
University College of Estate Management
University College of Osteopathy
London Institute of Banking and Finance
London Business School
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
“Ravensbourne University London does not own accommodation / halls of residence. We are a relatively small university with 2,400 students.”
"We are working closely with partner accommodation providers to ensure that our students have clarity on their circumstances and that any change in policy is communicated at the earliest opportunity.”
University of Bolton
Soon distributing a “rent-related hardship fund”.
University of Bradford
“While the University of Bradford does not have its own student accommodation, we do work with closely Unipol, the student housing charity, to ensure that they have access to information on suitable accommodation options.”