University College London has agreed to pay more than £100,000 compensation to students who were forced to endure noisy, vermin-infested accommodation.
An internal complaints panel said that 87 students who lived in the institution’s Campbell House West property near Euston should each receive a term’s rent rebate, worth £1,368.
The ruling followed a seven-month campaign that included a rent strike and was followed, according to the students, by the threat of academic sanctions and expulsion.
The ruling by UCL’s complaints panel concluded that the living conditions were “unacceptable” and that the institution’s handling of the matter demonstrated “not only a lack of empathy towards the students’ circumstances” but was also “disingenuous to the students concerned”.
The dispute took place during the 2014-15 academic year, when UCL undertook demolition works at Wates House, adjacent to the student accommodation.
Students complained of disruption to daily life, including sleep and study, and said that works were taking place outside contracted hours. Noise levels of between 81 and 91 decibels were recorded.
Students also reported that they had seen mice and rats within the halls of residence.
Anthony Smith, UCL’s vice-provost (education and student affairs), apologised to the students involved.
“UCL takes its responsibility towards its students extremely seriously and values highly its relationship with the student body,” Professor Smith said. “As such I am sorry that on this occasion the students’ experience did not match their or our expectations.”
Angus O’Brien, the halls and accommodation officer at the UCL Union, said that the complaint had highlighted “severe issues”.
“Despite the clear, devastating effects on the residents’ daily life, studies and overall quality of life, no effective preventative action was taken by UCL,” he said. “Its priorities lay not in the education and well-being of the students but the monetisation of the estate.”