Competitive rents

November 5, 1999

Frosty rebuke, what nonsense! ("How they spend our rent", THES, October 29). Eleanor O'Keeffe accuses me of telling students they have no right to know how colleges spend their money. Far from it.

Colleges have long had student representation on key committees, and these students know all about college rent policy and much else. The issue is that the university student union does not have a college role. It circulated a questionnaire to bursars seeking detailed college information to help it pursue its war more aggressively. It could have obtained the information from students at the 30 colleges, but saw the opportunity to present bursars with a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" option. Given the choice, I preferred to be damned for making them work that bit harder.

The rents against which they are campaigning now average Pounds 46 a week and are planned to rise in real terms to about Pounds 60 in five years' time. That includes heating, cleaning and other services, and involves no daily travel costs. Will that make Cambridge the second most expensive university for students in the country? So far as I know, none of our 11,000 undergraduates has yet given up his/her college room to find cheaper accommodation in the city.

Charles Larkum

Bursar, Sidney Sussex College Cambridge

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