Students protest over rent hike

February 24, 1995

Nearly Pounds 800,000 worth of rent is being withheld by students at two universities, in disputes over rent increases and poor accommodation.

Students at Leeds University have withheld Pounds 650,000 in protest at a 7 per cent rent increase this academic year.

Tim Goodall, welfare secretary of Leeds student union, said: "The original plan was for a 12 per cent increase, which we opposed."

An offer by the university, which would have given every student in hall a rebate of Pounds 60 and a promise of only a 5 per cent increase next year - instead of the proposed 11.5 per cent - was rejected by students.

Carl Potter, director of residential and commercial services at Leeds, said: "The offer was as low as we could go. We are continuing to talk to the student union - but there is no other offer on the table." He said that there were no plans to take disciplinary action against students.

Mr Potter said that four years ago the university decided to maintain its guarantee of a place in hall to all first-year students.

This was agreed with the student union and as student numbers have increased from 10,500 in 1990/91 to 19,000 in 1994/95 there have obviously been costs.

The student union maintains that the Government policy of consolidation on student numbers has meant that the university overestimated the number of beds that would be needed. In particular they resent the Pounds 31 million being spent on the upmarket Clarence Dock development.

Mr Potter acknowledged that the university could provide places for 20 per cent of all second and third-year students - as well as all first-year and overseas students. However, he anticipated that when student numbers were allowed to increase again, the beds would be needed by first years.

At Plymouth University students in the newly built Robbins Hall are withholding Pounds 120,000 worth of rent - the equivalent to a term's rent. They argue that students are living in "damp, unventilated conditions, infested with plaster mites".

A spokesman for the university acknowledged that there had been problems with the new building - in particular it had rained heavily during construction causing damp. He also acknowledged that windows on the top floor had been designed not to be opened and that the university was replacing them.

He said the university would offer compensation to students who had suffered - but that most rooms were of a high standard.

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