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From: The Socialist issue 1116, 13 January 2021: Our health and livelihoods before their profits

Search site for keywords: Socialist Students - Student - Pay - Fees - Education - Students - University - Socialist

Refund student rent and fees - fight for free education and make the 1% pay

The first weeks of 2021 have seen an explosion of student anger. Students are paying extortionate rent and tuition fees for education by Zoom and unused accommodation. The number of student groups organising rent strikes is growing, and increasingly individual universities are offering concessions. Socialist Party and Socialist Students members are participating - making the case for rent and fee refunds and for free education, paid for by the 1%.
Join Socialist Students' national meeting 'Refund the rent, cancel the fees and fight for free education' Wednesday 20 January at 6pm - visit Socialist Students on Facebook for Zoom details.
Below we print a statement from the Swansea University rent strike that Socialist Students initiated.

  (Click to enlarge)

Since moving to university in September, students at Swansea University have been treated as a reliable source of income by the university, rather than as students. We were moved to Swansea during a pandemic, when the university was fully aware that we would either rarely access campus, or not access it at all.

Most students at the university could've undertaken the first term from their laptop at home, and the upcoming term will be no different. We have seen students' extortionate rents being syphoned out of our already criminally low maintenance loans, for a service we don't require. As we head into a new lockdown, it is clear that on-campus learning will be minimal.

Conflicting advice from the UK government and devolved governments has caused great confusion among students, and the university has remained shockingly silent. Amid all this, a student mental health crisis is raging. For years, mental health support nationally has been cut to the bone, and the pandemic has revealed the effects of this.

Forced away from home unnecessarily, many students have struggled with the isolation of the pandemic and lack of social interaction outside of their accommodation bubble. All this to line the pockets of the university. At the same time, students have been set difficult January deadlines, with no access to on-campus support for assignments and no help over Christmas.

This comes at a time when the university plans on making huge redundancies across departments. This means that while students cough up 9,000 a year in fees and thousands more in rent, the university is actively cutting staff numbers and lowering the quality of our courses. We support our staff and the University and Colleges Union (UCU) in its fight against these redundancies.

The government and university vice-chancellors have taken students for granted throughout this crisis. We will not pay. We are calling for students to withhold rent from the university. We will be working with university rent strike groups around the country, of which there are now over 45. In numbers, we will win!

We demand:

  • A mass rent refund for students
  • Complete cancellation of rent for this term for students unable to move into halls and government funding to plug any funding gap
  • For the right of students in private housing to cancel their contracts. Compensation to the landlords only on the basis of proven need
  • For the election of a university pandemic advisory group made up of students and workers
  • A fair evaluation of the situation next term regarding accommodation and lockdown
  • Funding support for mental health services
  • Clear guidance to students regarding the new lockdown, direct from the university
  • Democratically set rents, decided on by elected committees including students!
  • Democratic control and oversight of health and safety, for elected committees made up of campus unions, workers and students
  • Build a national student movement to fight for the funding our universities need! Scrap the market model and fight for free, high-quality education for all

Come to Socialist Students online conference

  • Sunday 28 February

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January 2021