Two-week rent reduction for Manchester students is a ‘slap in the face’ – union

A two-week rent reduction for students in University of Manchester halls will feel like a “slap in the face” to protesters, a union has said.

The University and College Union (UCU) is concerned that students could be deterred from studying at the University of Manchester (UoM) in light of recent events.

Students have been occupying a UoM building since last week as part of a campaign for rent cuts after their face-to-face classes were halted and they experienced a series of issues with accommodation.

Earlier this month. Manchester students pulled down security fences which were erected around students’ halls on the UoM’s Fallowfield campus as the second lockdown began in England.

The UoM has now pledged a reduction of two weeks’ rent for all students in their accommodation following the protests on campus.

Students will also be able to break their accommodation agreements and leave halls during term time without receiving a financial penalty under the new measures.

But a spokesperson for the UoM Rent strike campaign – which has called for rental fees to be reduced by 40% – said the offer was “far from enough” and the occupation of Owens Park Tower will continue.

Jo Grady, general secretary of University and College Union (UCU), said: “After student protesters asked for a rent reduction of at least 40%, a reduction of two weeks must feel like a slap in the face. We completely support students’ protests against how they’ve been treated.”

Coronavirus – Thu Nov 5, 2020
Students at University of Manchester’s Fallowfield campus, angered by fences put up around their accommodation (Joe Hindley)

She added: “UCU is very worried the university’s actions this term will lead to students speaking with their feet and choosing not to study at Manchester which could lead to job losses for our members.

“The university must now step back from the brink, limit any further damage to its reputation and meaningfully engage with the students protesting.”

The UoM said they have worked closely with students via accommodation representatives and the students’ union.

The university has launched an inquiry to look into how and why the decision was taken to erect fencing around student halls on the day that new restrictions came into force in England.

A separate investigation has been launched by the UoM this week after a student claimed he had been racially profiled by security guards – who have since been suspended –  on campus on Friday night.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “Students who are occupying Manchester uni have been quite clear that a 5% reduction is not enough and they will keep demanding better.

“That the university are now negotiating shows the power that students have when we take collective, direct action.

“Students across the UK have been let down at every turn of the pandemic, and we know we deserve better – and will fight for it.”

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