University accommodation scandal

14 10 2009

Students must defend rights

Around 800 first-year students at De Montfort University in Leicester have been forced into hotels around the city after the university ‘ran out of space’ in halls. Many of the students were told that they were guaranteed a place after they applied in May and June but were then informed, some just two days before they were to move in, that they did not in fact have a place and were going to be put into temporary accommodation.

By Becci Heaghney, Leicester Socialist Students

Some students were housed in private accommodation but, as one student told us, the houses were not suitable. There were reports of windows not closing, front doors not opening and boilers being unsafe.

Others have been put into hotels and are being charged £100 a week, a significant amount more than the £75 they were promised in halls. Students are also being charged extra for internet access, which would have been included in their rent in halls, and for taxi and other travel costs to get to and from university. The average that students have been spending in taxi costs is £10 a day.

It is not only the extra cost that is a problem for students but the inconvenience. The students were looking forward to starting university so that they could meet other people and now many are feeling isolated and distressed.

Members of the student union have been visiting the students in the hotels to check on them and it has been reported in the local press that, according to the university, the students are happy. This is not the case; students are feeling very uncertain about the near future.

No one knows when the situation will be resolved and students are being kept in the dark about what the university is doing to sort the accommodation crisis out.

The university have stated that they will try to provide more permanent housing by the end of October but many students have already started to look for private accommodation themselves.

De Montfort Socialist Students does not think that this is good enough. The university were willing to over-subscribe places and accept the £3,225 in tuition fees from each student, but they have been unable to provide accommodation for everyone. De Montford only offers a maximum bursary of £500. Not only this, but their lack of organisation has meant that students were not informed of the problems with sufficient time to look for somewhere else to live.

At the freshers fair, Socialist Students had a petition against the accommodation crisis demanding that the university finds decent, low-cost permanent housing for all of the students affected as soon as possible and that all extra costs that students have had to pay be refunded to them. We got hundreds of signatures and students were pleased that someone was supporting them.

However, the petition is only a start of the campaign and we hope to do more to put pressure on the university to rectify the situation.

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