Manchester, Cambridge and Exeter announce rent waivers

Institutions cut fees after students threaten accommodation rent strikes over lockdown

January 8, 2021
student accommodation
Source: istock

Some UK universities have announced rent waivers or reductions for students during the current lockdown, following mounting pressure after the return to face-to-face teaching was delayed due to the pandemic.

The universities of Cambridge, Exeter, Lincoln and Manchester, plus Falmouth University, have all confirmed that they will charge no rent or discounted rent to students who are not using their university accommodation.

Students across the country this week threatened rent strikes after being told to pay for accommodation despite not being able to return to campus during lockdown.

The University of Manchester said on 8 January that students living in university accommodation who have not returned to that accommodation since the national lockdown started on 5 January will not pay any rent until the end of the current restrictions or until the date that the student returns to the accommodation.

Those living in halls have already been given a 30 per cent rent reduction. Manchester said this will continue to apply until 31 January, the end of this semester, but students will pay the full rate from 1 February unless they choose to leave or not to return. The next rent instalment is due on 21 January, but the university said this will be pushed back to give students time to reflect on their decision for study in the second semester.

Manchester followed the University of Cambridge, which said that its colleges have agreed that rent will only be charged if students are living in college accommodation during the lockdown.  

The University of Exeter also waived rent charges during the lockdown period for students who have not returned to their term-time accommodation.

Meanwhile, the University of Lincoln said there will be a 20 per cent rent reduction for students in university-managed accommodation, according to local news website The LincolniteThe BBC also reported that Falmouth University had cancelled or refunded rent for students.

Some vice-chancellors have urged ministers to compensate institutions for rent waivers. One senior sector figure told Times Higher Education that student calls for refunds will “mount to unstoppable levels” and suggested that the Department for Education was modelling options for compensation through the loans system with the intent of making the case for government support – more likely on the accommodation front rather than tuition fees.

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