Dispute over rent reaches deadlock

February 11, 2000

Beleagured students take action fees and rent and fear a privatised future.

Cambridge University is owed over Pounds 600,000 from students withholding their rent payments because increases in accommodation charges have made Cambridge "the most expensive university in Britain", its student union has claimed.

Tristan Jones, president of Cambridge University Student Union, said that more than 1,000 students are now on rent strike across eight colleges. He added that the intentions behind the strikes have been widely misunderstood.

"The point of striking is not to withhold the money forever. We are trying to start a discussion about the issue. But the colleges just put up a brick wall when they are faced with something they are not used to and tell us to pay or else."

Some students have been told they will forfeit their opportunity to graduate if they continue to strike, he said.

"Others are scared it will mean that they won't get a room in college next year, and it is really difficult to find other accommodation," he added.

However, Charles Larkum, bursar of Sidney Sussex College, said students have exaggerated this claim in an attempt to appear victimised. "Students know that they must clear all bills or they will not be formally presented for their degrees," he said.

Mr Larkum added: "Students at Cambridge are offered 100 per cent accommodation against a national average of 30 per cent. If (they) think they are being victimised ... they won't get much public sympathy."

A demonstration in Cambridge this weekend hopes to refocus attention on Cambridge's protesters.

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