University Responses to Consultation: Statement

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.

If you’d like to help us in doing this, please sign up to be an Alternative Open Day Ambassador  or contact us here.

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The Alternate Prospectus

Featured

The Alternative Durham Open Days will run alongside the official Durham University Summer Open Days, on 27th June and 2nd July. They are being organised by a coalition of student groups, associations and societies, alongside TU branch Durham Unite Community and other local grassroots activists. The demands of this action are that both college accommodation fees and international fees be fixed at the level of this year (2015/16), followed by a two year freeze on each.

  • An online Alternative Durham Prospectus has been launched, including endorsements from notable Durham alumni. It highlights issues such as:
  • High college accommodation fees and international fees and their detrimental effects on accessibility, diversity and local communities
  • Issues of student safety
  • The University’s poor sexual assault policy
  • The University’s refusal to pay all its staff a living wage
  • The University’s investment in fossil fuel companies and arms manufacturers

This action builds on years of escalating student protest at Durham, including opposition to the fee hikes from the Student Union and college representatives. Durham students’ ‘Funeral for Accessible Education’ in November gained national media attention, and involved over 300 students.

Organisers have been clear that this action is a last resort. Should the University meet these demands, the Alternative Open Days will not go ahead. They are also keen to emphasise that their goal is not to actively discourage potential students from applying.

You can read the prospectus here: