A University Says It Will Take Unpaid Rent Out of Student Bursaries

The move by the University of Bristol, made during a rent strike, risks penalising students from households with lower incomes.
November 19, 2020, 8:08pm
Some students have been taking part in a rent strike since the start of term.
Some students have been taking part in a rent strike since the start of term. Photo: Bristol, Cut the Rent

The University of Bristol has told students involved in a campus rent strike that overdue rent will be deducted from bursary payments. 

In an email sent to students tonight the university wrote, “If the debt remains outstanding and overdue for payment on the 26th November, the University will use some, or all, of the December 2nd instalment of your bursary to offset any outstanding amounts.”

At Bristol, bursaries are awarded to students who have a household income of £42,875 or less. Terms and conditions of the bursary state that, “The university reserves the right to use bursary instalments to offset any debt you owe to the university.”

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Josephina Nagler-Gomez, a first-year student who receives a bursary, told VICE World News, “It’s a complete slap in the face. If you’re eligible for a bursary it’s because you’re from a low-income background and you’re deemed to need extra support. Once again the university has shown that it values money and only money over the well-being of its students.”

“They are targeting some of the most vulnerable students in their care,” she added. “It’s disgusting.”

Nagler-Gomez says she will continue taking part in the rent strike, saying, “I am not going to pay [and] I will not be bullied into paying. I am an 18-year-old student, not a money-making machine.”

Students at the University of Bristol have been rent-striking since the beginning of term after multiple coronavirus outbreaks and complaints over the standard of online learning. Students say they have been in negotiation with university management about rent reductions, no penalty contract releases and deposit refunds for international students, and that their demands are to be presented to the Board of Trustees for consideration. 

A spokesperson from the University of Bristol said, “Bursaries are provided by the university to help ​students cover expenditure such as rent. The terms and conditions of bursaries clearly state that if a student owes the university money then the bursary will be used to pay any debt that is owed.”

“We have had regular discussions with Bristol Cut the Rent and the Students’ Union, during which we have been clear that students must comply with the tenancy agreements they have signed,” they added. “It is costing significantly more to operate our halls this year, due to later arrival dates, increased security and the additional support offered to students who are self-isolating, who we are providing with cleaning supplies, laundry services and free food boxes. We do not make a profit from student rent.”