This year Alice Phillips, Equality, Liberation and Access Officer, and I were involved in setting the rent prices for university owned first year accommodation.
The Residences and Hospitality Services division of the University run a cost-neutral budget. This means that the total amount of rent received across all accommodation equals the department’s running costs, such as staffing costs, the maintenance of residences and catering facilities.
This year the university proposed a 2% annual increase of all rents to cover increasing energy costs and to fund the continuing residences refurbishment programme.
Following a discussion topic at Student Council earlier in the year, students fed back that they would prefer to increase the cost of higher quality bed spaces by a higher price and to increase lower quality rooms by a lower percentage or reducing their rents. This is what we put to the University, who agreed.
Given the restricted budget and the proposed increase in rents we saw this as a fair way to ensure rents remained affordable.
“the costs of some halls will be lower next year than they are currently”
We pressed further for this and received a commitment for the university that 545 bed spaces would be at an affordable level (below £4,300 per year). This was a major win as the number of bed spaces below this level last year was under 200. This means that the costs of some halls will be lower next year than they are currently.
However, we still recognise that more needs to be done and we will continue to lobby the university to make rents across the board more affordable.
In addition, following a motion at our Annual Members’ Meeting in February, we have transferred some of the costs of the number 16 bus service to the cost of Stoke Bishop halls of residences that benefit from this service. We will look further at this when the current contract expires with Wessex Bus next summer.
These decisions have been guided by elected student representatives and show the impact that sabbatical officers do have on the decisions made by the University.
Finally, I would like to announce that the university has entered partnership agreements with Unite Students and The Student Housing Company, so two new halls of residences will be opening in September. These are Orchard Heights on Frogmore Street and The Courtrooms on Rupert Street.
By Thomas Phipps, Student Living Officer