Update from the President: Accommodation fees 18/19

Wednesday 18-10-2017 - 12:05
Megan update

Hello all,

I want to make sure that every Durham student knows about how I’m representing your interests to the University. I’m committed to tackling the spiralling cost of being a Durham student – it’s my priority this year – because it excludes too many people from the fantastic opportunities at this University.

Today the University has announced that the 2018/19 accommodation fees are to rise in line with inflation (3.5%). It will cost £7,422 for a catered room and £5,195 for a self-catered room. I’m disappointed with this increase, but I’m at least able to tell you that Durham SU persuaded the  University that they just couldn’t continue to raise their college fees at such an alarming rate as in previous years. In 2011/2012, for example, the University increased fees by 13.41% which means that even though they’ve now committed to an inflationary increase, they’re inflating an already extortionate cost. An inflationary increase is a small win, but if this rate of increase continues, fees will top £8000 within three years.

This year, Easter term will be a week longer and I’m pleased that, as a result of Durham SU’s lobbying, the University has agreed that students living in college will not incur the cost for the additional week. Our partnership working has therefore saved catered livers-in £211. I continue to be concerned that the University will try to pass this charge onto students next year, but I don’t accept the principle that the University can change their academic calendar without considering the extra cost to students. I’ll be campaigning for the University to include a full student impact financial analysis in every policy proposal they make this year.

I also persuaded the University Executive Committee to accept that some rooms just aren’t the same value as others. We’ve achieved a reduction in the price of shared rooms. There will now be an additional £200 reduction in the cost of a shared room, meaning that students that share save £436 in total in comparison to single rooms.

I’m passionate about the collegiate experience, and I’m determined to ensure that the cost of Durham does not shut out students from lower-income backgrounds. As a result of the Durham SU campaign, the University has now set up a Residential Accommodation Differential Pricing Group in order to make recommendations regarding differential pricing for accommodation. This means that I’ll be campaigning to ensure that there’s more choice available, so more students can enjoy being a member of our college communities.

I want to let you know how I’ll be campaigning to improve college accommodation this year. I’d love to know what you think about my proposals; email me on su.president@durham.ac.uk if you’d like to be part of the campaign. You can also read more and see the recent increases in fees here. Below is what I’ll be working on to make the cost of the Durham experience more affordable:

  1. I’ll make sure we balance quality and price. As a result of years of neglect, much of the University estate is in a poor condition. The current lack of differential pricing means that students are paying the same extortionate amount whether they live in a poor quality room, or in the nicest room in the Castle. This needs to change. No student should accept that being a member of a college community means we should accept poor quality, high cost living space. Other Universities are promising students homes that are new, clean, and in good repair; Durham students deserve the same.
  2. I’ll make sure our accommodation fees are clearly going to make our homes in College nice places to live. I won’t accept that a University full of incredibly intelligent people can’t make accommodation fees transparent. The lack of information and conversations isn’t because the University can’t do it – it’s because they won’t do it. I’m determined to get a breakdown of how the University is spending our money, so we can collectively have a conversation about how to spend it for all of our benefits.
  3. I’ll make sure support goes to the people who need it most. The Durham Grant has been greatly reduced and we cannot risk Durham University becoming exclusive. I want to change the Durham grant to have more tiers, so that it can help more people in a way that is more appropriate to their financial situation. I also want to see a return to a £3000 bursary as the maximum given. The £1000 previously available to those who had a household income of £25000-35000 is now being offered only to first years who live in college, which I feel is very unfair to returning students. Their financial situation has not changed since they finished first year, so why does their support?
  4. I’ll make sure that students are taken seriously in these discussions. The Scholarships, Fees and Awards Advisory Group (SFAAG) is the group which makes the recommendation for how fees should be set. I sit on this group and represent the interests of Durham students. I want this group to clearly have the power to negotiate fees, and to have disagreements between University staff, College staff, and students, settled in conversation – it’s how Universities are meant to work. I don’t think that the fact decisions are difficult means that the decision should be transferred to the University Executive Committee as they were this year, when SFAAG failed to make a recommendation. I was extremely disappointed that a Committee without a single student representative  made a decision so important to Durham students. I was pleased to be invited to share my views with UEC – but that’s not the same as partnership. The University can do better.

In summary –the University have begun to listen but students need to be partners in this process, and we’re not there yet. You can sign our RippedOff campaign petition here and join our peaceful demonstration on Wednesday 29 November at the Science Site, prior to the next meeting of the Scholarships, Fees, Awards Advisory Group who make recommendations to the University Executive Committee. While the accommodation fee rise could have been much larger, I still firmly believe that the base cost of accommodation fees is excessive and needs urgent review.



Related Tags :

More Durham SU Articles

More Articles...