A long-running rent strike at University College London is to end after the institution agreed to freeze or reduce students’ accommodation fees, and to make hundreds of thousands of pounds available in bursaries.
Hundreds of students have been refusing to pay their rent since January in protest at the cost of living in UCL residences, but an agreement has now been reached between the university and the UCL Cut the Rent campaign.
The university has agreed to make £350,000 available in accommodation bursaries next year, which will be allocated to students most in need of financial support. It has also confirmed that rents will be frozen for 2016-17, and in some cases reduced.
UCL has pledged to increase the value of the bursary scheme to £500,000 in the subsequent year.
This comes after the institution froze or reduced rents for about 30 per cent of its accommodation earlier this year.
Rex Knight, UCL’s vice-provost, welcomed the outcome of the “positive negotiations”.
“From the outset we have appreciated that affordability is a big issue for our students, and a challenge for a university based in the heart of central London,” Mr Knight said. “The new bursaries we have announced will make a significant difference to all students in greatest need, and will help ensure that UCL remains an institution open to all.”
Rents at UCL had increased significantly in recent years, with the cheapest room in its catered halls of residence costing £143 a week next year.
The institution has also faced complaints about the quality of its accommodation, and paid out a total of £420,000 compensation in two separate cases involving students who complained about noisy, vermin-infested buildings.
Angus O’Brien, halls accommodation representative on the UCL Union, welcomed the agreement.
“It is unlikely that concerns regarding access to education at UCL, as well as across London and beyond, will be entirely addressed in the short term,” he said. “Today’s announcement is a welcome step forward in ensuring higher education becomes more accessible to students from all backgrounds.”
The deal was struck after it emerged that UCL was reportedly considering expanding to 60,000 students, from the current total of about 35,000.
The university has also confirmed that it will waive late payment charges on all accommodation accounts that are settled by 24 June.