Hundreds of students taking part in a rent strike at the University of Manchester have won their demands for a rent reduction after recent escalation tactics that saw them occupy an empty building on campus.
All students in the university’s accommodation will receive 30 percent off their rent from the first semester when many were forced to isolate amid coronavirus outbreaks. It marks the largest rent reduction in the university’s history, gaining traction after the university fenced students in without warning and left many feeling unhappy at the support provided while self-isolating.
Alongside the rent reductions, students will also be able to break from their accommodation contracts with no penalty.
In a statement, the UoM Rent Strike campaign said: “The university has, throughout this process, refused to properly engage with its students and by its own arrogance done potentially irreparable damage to its own reputation.”
“This victory would not have been possible,” it continued, “without the incredible pressure that was put onto the university’s management by the strength of a united movement of students, staff and wider community.”
The UoM Rent Strike campaign says students will continue to withhold rent in January in order to achieve further rent reductions in the second semester. The campaign is also coordinating with other university rent strikes across the country to help more students win rent reductions.
Ben McGowan, a first-year student who had been part of the building occupation and rent strike said: “[I’m] overjoyed we won but fully aware that none of this would’ve happened were it not for the university being afraid of the damage we could do to both their finances and reputation.”
University students across the country have launched rent strikes in response to a lack of welfare support during self-isolation periods, a lack of face-to-face teaching, and disruption to normal university life. Many feel mislead about the requirement to rent accommodation on campus when teaching has primarily moved online.
The University of Manchester declined to provide an official statement. In a news article on their website, it wrote that it would not provide any further rent reductions.
“The increase from the previously announced two-week rent reduction, announced in an accommodation pledge last week, follows detailed discussions between the University, Students’ Union officers and elected student representatives from halls of residence,” it said. “It acknowledges that the limited availability of some facilities due to national COVID-19 restrictions has had an impact on the student experience and the ongoing uncertainty about the return to campus arrangements in January.”