Working with your Student Union

Passing a motion can be essential to ensuring the support of your student union (SU) and can aid in the success of your campaign. Below is an initial outline of a motion with national figures and context. It would be wise to amend and add to this motion to include location/provider specifics that are relevant to students at your campus. In addition, the ‘resolves’ section -which are the commitments the SU had to make if the motion is passed -should be designed depending on your context. Make these ‘resolves’ incredibly clear, specific and include time-scales to ensure SUs cannot wriggle out of their responsibilities once the motion becomes policy. If you do not have supportive Sabbatical Officers who will implement the policy alongside you, then be even more prescriptive in the types of actions you would like to see. For example, ‘This SU resolves to provide legal, organisational and financial support for the Rent Strike campaign including the establishment of a secure bank account for rent strikers.”

In addition, often the passing of a motion in a student council/forum and/or a campus referendum can be a useful and galvanising tool to kick-start a campaign. If you have to win a referendum to create policy, then treat all those conversations with students as the start of your Cut the Rent Campaign!

Suggested model motion (adjust as you see fit, with data relevant to your campus)

This SU Notes:

1.   The cost of rent nationally in Halls of Residence doubled in 10 years between 2002-2012

2.   Nationally Halls Rents have further increased by 31.3% between 2012-2018

3.   Rent rise rates have exceeded RPI throughout the timeline and have become increasingly detached from the index. There is no evidence of providers directly pegging rent increases to RPI, even though a significant number cite it as a key point of reference in rent setting

4.   There has been a steady erosion of the proportion of maintenance support available once rent has been paid. In 2011/12 rents accounted for 58 per cent of the maximum financial support allowed. In 2018/19 the figure is 73 per cent. However, student support is means-tested above household incomes of £25,000, so that fewer than half of students receive the full loan package.

5.   There is no sign of rent rises ceasing in coming years, with Universities more likely than private providers to be confident they can keep hiking at current rates

6.   Only 34 per cent of institutions and 23 per cent of private providers currently have an affordability policy

7.   Overall, half (49 per cent) of providers say they do not involve students in the rent setting process to any extent.

8.   50% of halls are now provided by private sector and universities increasingly are signing opaque PFI-style deals with private providers – outsourcing the costs for the University and embedding significant rent rises for students

9.   Some universities are issuing interest-laden bonds to build and renovate halls of residence

10.  Universities are obsessively building hotel-style halls of residence which hike rents and tend to be isolating spaces and are not an accurate representation of what students are seeking

11.  Universities and the private sector are cutting corners regarding things like accessibility and student welfare provision in halls in order to increase profits

12.  Marketisation has caused universities to commercialise their operations in order to increase and diversify income streams to the detriment of students

13.  For the vast majority of students, maintenance loans will not cover or barely cover the cost of rent. This has created a ‘housing benefit’ style situation – where the state is spending billions on subsidising university surpluses in order to keep students in halls rather than introducing rent caps

14.  The recent Augar Review has recommended the OFS investigate University and private sector halls operations – this is too weak a step and only grassroots action can push universities, the regulator and government further

15.   Thousands of students are being pushed into poverty and rent arrears in halls of residence each year

16.  The NUS modestly recommend that universities ensure 25% of bed spaces are available at 50% of the maximum maintenance loan.

17.    Universities and private providers are often the largest landlords in the area and are exacerbating the wider housing crisis with their actions

18.  The NUS has crystal clear policy position to support all Cut the Rent and Rent Strike campaigns across the country

This SU believes:

1.  Housing is a right not a privilege and affordability is essential to ensuring everybody can access HE and not be pushed into poverty whilst studying

2.  Student landlords are simultaneously profiting off student poverty and scrounging off the taxpayer

3.  Students have the right to maximum input on the rent-setting process

4.  Universities have a duty of care not a duty of exploitation

5.  Tenants’ action is the only way to fight back and people have been winning all over the country from London to Liverpool, from Sussex to Bristol!

This SU resolves:

1.  Support the Cut the Rent/Rent Strike campaign with all available resources as a priority campaign

2.  Start a priority Cut the Rent/Rent Strike campaign utilising all available resources at hand

References:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9450/Latest-figures-show-increases-in-universities-income-surpluses-and-reserves

https://www.unipol.org.uk/acs2018.aspx

https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/class-dismissed-getting-in-and-getting-on-in-further-and-higher-education-report-of-the-nus-poverty-commission-executive-summary

https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/welfare-zone-live-policy-201720-ef89

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jan/20/17000-uk-students-university-accommodation-rent-arrears-debt

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/post-18-review-of-education-and-funding-independent-panel-report

https://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/homes-fit-for-study-report/