Students at 31 universities are threatening to hold social-media organised rent strikes in a bid to win rent reductions.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that they won’t be able to return to campuses until mid-February, at least 3,000 angry students have signed up to protest at having to pay for their empty accommodation.
Rent strike groups have been appearing on Instagram and inspiring students to sign up at campuses including Brighton, Manchester, Nottingham and Lancaster.
Even before the latest lockdown, a number of protests were being held around the country by young people upset at the lack of face-to-face teaching; in Manchester it resulted in a 30% rent cut at university accommodation.
Student website The Tab is encouraging more students to get involved and start their own rent strike group, using resources from the Rent Strike network on Instagram, featuring Zoom training from experienced rent strikers and lawyers.
Its handbook on organising strikes during the pandemic is aimed at students in university halls, but also has practical information for those in private accommodation.
The Rent Strike network says: “No uni wants to get bad press after evicting struggling students. We know it’s a risky tactic, and it’s worth knowing the possible consequences of such a campaign. You want to be ready for the worst. But we have incredibly strong political arguments and the potential to build a huge movement that goes with it.”
The NUS is calling for rent rebates and the opportunity to leave tenancies early. Vice president higher education, Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, says: “The government’s inability to deal with the pandemic has once again led us to a sadly necessary national lockdown. Ongoing disruption means students are struggling to make ends meet – students need substantial support.”