By Angus O’Brien, UCL Defend Education
On Thursday, 30th October, students at the Ifor Evans Site (the UCL Halls in Camden), held the inaugural Halls Assembly to discuss the state of their living conditions (for a flavour of this, you can read this report from the London Tab) and what they are going to do about it. It is likely to have been the first of such a meeting, at least in current student memory at UCL.
Discontented with the poor conditions and the cost to live on the Ifor Evans Site (the majority of students paying either £132 in Max Rayne or £167.70 in Ifor Evans per week), the assembly has created a plan to take action. In the next few weeks, a demand for information and transparency as to where the students’ money is actually going is to be made, alongside the signing of a petition containing 5 demands to be sent to the UCL Accommodations Department.
The unhappiness with living conditions has been exacerbated by two facts in particular: one, that rents have risen since last year, seemingly without evidence of any corresponding investment by the university and above the rate at which student loans and grants are rising. This has caused a loss in real terms for all student tenants in comparison to previous years. Secondly, UCL is running its accommodation with an excess of £10 million a year. The proliferation of this fact has caused disgust on the site as UCL is essentially making a profit from its own students, a notion reflected in the fact that they refer to their student tenants as ‘customers’.
But more tangible factors have also played a part within this student movement: broken fridges, toilets and showers, extortionate fines, inequality of conditions between floors and rooms only seem to scratch the surface. Cockroaches, believed to be living in the walls, are being found throughout Max Rayne, showing that nothing has been done about this an issue that has affected students for numerous years. Walking around the site, it is hard to find any evidence of investment since the residence opened in 1979. Coupling this with increasing rents and the wholesale lack of willingness to deal with the greater problems, it’s no wonder students are disillusioned.
It must be said at this point that the writer of this report is personally tied to this movement, but, nevertheless, would like to make a prediction. These students are being ripped off by their own university, but by holding assemblies, creating action groups and working together, the tide may just turn back into their favour. The Camden Halls could well turn out to be the catalyst for a wider student fightback against the extortion they are being subjected to by their universities.
The demands to be made by the students at the Camden Halls are, in brief:
- reverse the rent hike
- equal standards across the site
- accountability and direct student influence
- transparency in spending
- sustainable investment for students, not profit
Are you organising for your rights as student tenants? Or do you want advice on getting started? Let us know by emailing [email protected]!