The team behind the Alternative Durham Open Days strongly condemns the University’s responses to a student survey conducted by Durham Students’ Union. The responses can be found here.
Despite concerted student pressure led by Durham Left Activists and the dialogue undertaken by the DSU, the University still refuses to respond to concerns surrounding the upcoming 3.5% rise in College fees for the next academic year. The rise will mean that most students will pay around or above £7,000 a year to live in College. We demand that College fees are frozen at their present level for the next two academic years.
As well as being disappointed at the University refusing to consider the prospect of freezing College fees for the next two years, we also have a number of concerns about the details of the responses.
Firstly, the university suggests it is looking to increase the amount of financial support available to disadvantaged students. Whilst any increase in financial support is welcome, the Vice-Chancellor, in response to the Funeral For Accessible Education in December, suggested that any increase would only apply to students with a household income of below £26,500. However, this is less than the national average income for one person, so significant numbers of students facing difficulties in paying College accommodation charges will not be helped by the extra funding. We believe a freeze in accommodation cost for all students at 2015/16 prices for two years is the only way of ensuring that all students can afford to live in College.
Additionally, in a response to a suggestion that the University’s pricing strategy is putting up rents in Durham City, the University asserts that ‘supply and demand in the private sector will play a role in determining rent levels in Durham City’. However, the University is the largest landlord in Durham, and so plays a significant role in determining the price levels of private rented accommodation in Durham City. The University’s refusal to admit to its role in pushing up the cost of housing for all students is highly unsatisfactory.
The University goes on to argue that ‘We think the model of consultation trialed this year is a step in the right direction.’ However, we query this. How can a consultation that shows the deep-seated anger of students, both in elected and non-elected roles, which fails to see anything be done about the spiraling cost of College accommodation be ‘a step in the right direction’?
The document shows in full the University’s attitude to its student body. Rather than listen to their legitimate concerns, it ignores them, and leaves hundreds of current and prospective students facing the prospect of being unable to live in College.
This is unacceptable. The Alternative Durham Open Days are a response to the unwillingness of the University to listen to its students. They are an action of last resort, not designed to discourage potential students from applying, but to show the depth of feeling on this issue and on the other issues at this university, which you can read in our Alternative Prospectus.