By Guy Taylor, Investigations Editor
Bristol University has offered students a 100 per cent rent reduction for the students who are not able to return to halls due to the lockdown.
Students forced to remain at home due to the Government’s national lockdown guidance will not be required to pay rent for the period 1 February to 26 March, provided their course is not one of the few that has been allowed to resume with blending learning.
Students who are already in halls will continue to receive a 30% rent rebate until 5 February.
Students: If you’re not currently in residence and are unable to return to University-owned accommodation you will not be charged rent for the period 1 February – 26 March, providing your course has not resumed blended learning.— Bristol University 🎓 (@BristolUni) January 12, 2021
More details >> https://t.co/KJ2HH19mVF pic.twitter.com/pCZmr67Lmg
This policy is subject to any changes in the national lockdown which would allow students to return to accommodation earlier.
A University of Bristol spokesperson said: ‘we have today agreed that students who do not return to University-allocated accommodation because of the latest Government restrictions will receive a full rent rebate from 1 February until the start of the student spring vacation on 26 March.
‘Overall, this means that undergraduate students living in residences will receive an approximate 25 per cent rebate for the entire year, which we believe to be one of the most significant rebates across the university sector.
‘We appreciate the cost of accommodation is a major concern to our students at this unprecedented time and hope that today’s decision will provide them with assurance that we are taking their concerns around this very important issue seriously.’
Commenting on the University's announcement, Bristol SU’s Student Living Officer Ruth Day said: ‘We’re really pleased that the university have agreed to a rent rebate for students living in halls.
‘This is one of the top priorities I took to the university when lockdown was announced and what students have been asking for. It’s great that the university has listened and acted quickly.
‘We’ll be continuing to work with the University to ensure that students remaining in halls through lockdown get the financial support they need. We’ll also continue to work with JCRs and students striking with Bristol, Cut the Rent on the additional measures that they’d like to see put in place.’
The deadline to apply for the rent rebate is Wednesday 27 January 2021.
@BristolUni has just announced a rent rebate through February until 26th March, and while we welcome this development, students that have already returned for whatever reason are not entitled to any rebate. This is not good enough and we will be continuing our rent strike. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/0AodUT7Ojl— Rent Strike Bristol (@RentStrikeBris) January 12, 2021
The University has stated that those who apply for the rebate fraudulently will be investigated under the Student Disciplinary Regulations.
Bristol, Cut the Rent, however, the student-led campaign group who organised the largest UK university rent strike in history last year, have said the rebate offered by the University of Bristol is not enough.
In response to University’s announcement, the group’s organisers said: ‘We wholeheartedly welcome the University’s U-turn in regard to the percentage students will be refunded, as we pushed for a full rebate back in December. We also welcome the expansion of the rebate period to reflect the impact of the new lockdown on student’s ability to access their accommodation. However, we would like to stress that the university’s announcement is still inadequate.
‘Many students have already returned to their accommodation for a myriad of valid reasons: medical and nursing students are still required to learn on campus, many international students have been unable to leave the UK due to Covid, and some students rely on their accommodation as a safe space if there is not one elsewhere. All these students still deserve compensation: we will not allow the university to divide us.
‘The university’s current rebate policy will exclude anyone who has spent any time at all in their accommodation since 5 January. This does not account for students who may have gone back briefly to retrieve essential items for the lockdown or students who were in halls before the lockdown commenced.
‘In fact, many dentistry students returned to university last week as their exams start next week. While the in-person exam was cancelled on 7 January, dentistry students that returned are now excluded from the 100% rebate.’
‘The inadequate treatment of students by the university has not been resolved by them doing the bare minimum in not making us pay for accommodation we are not using – something that is supported by the vast majority of the public. We will continue to withhold rent until the university agrees to a full rebate for all students, a total thirty percent reduction in the year’s rent, and an assurance that no staff will face casualisation and redundancy due to cuts.’
What do you think of the University’s new policy?
Featured Image: Siavash Minoukadeh / Epigram