As a student myself, this subject really hits home, as I’m sure it will do for a lot of people my age. Due to the pandemic, there are student houses all over the country that are empty as a result of the travel restrictions. As if isolation wasn’t enough stress being induced, students are being charged thousands of pounds in rent for accommodation that simply cannot be accessed.
What is the problem here?
Before Christmas, there was a travel window where students could go home from university to visit their families, though the lockdown has meant that they are stuck at their family homes rather than at their paid private accommodation.
There are now fines in place for unnecessary travelling. The only acceptable travel is where a student cannot study in their own homes. Landlords are insistent that travelling back to accommodation is a necessary action, however, there are many that would not be willing to break the law.
According to the current government guidance, most students will not be able to return to university until at least the 8 March, with exceptions for students in medical and educational based studies. In other words, it’s a nightmare. With no sign of refunds in sight, my heart goes out to those who are overwhelmed by this issue.
Some universities are better than others – that’s a fact
In first year, it is usually expected that students reside in accommodation owned by the university, and move into private accommodation later on, perhaps in second year. It has been announced that Newcastle University will be refunding students for the entire duration they have not been living in accommodation for. This is the case for most students living in colleges or university owned buildings.
The main victims seem to be those renting through private companies and landlords. It seems completely wrong that students are being penalised financially for following the rules and regulations that have been put in place. Not only this, but there are clinically vulnerable students who have had to stay at home even longer due to shielding advice.
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At the beginning of lockdown, Unite Students – the owner of many residence halls and the biggest provider of student accommodation in the country – made an announcement stating it was extending a discount for students unable to access their rooms because of the lockdown. However, the 50 per cent discount period only covers 18 January to 7 March. Whilst I understand that a 50% discount may be generous in their eyes, it is still a huge burden for young adults to be undertaking when chaos resumes around them. I truly sympathise for anyone who needs to pay rent for a room that they have barely been in this academic year.
Are there any other financial debates for students this year?
Yes! There is! There is a huge amount of buzz going around regarding a reduction and refund in tuition fees for this academic year. Many students (including myself) believe that the education quality as a result of online learning has not been adequate to match the tuition costs. There have been ongoing petitions to support the reduction of the fees, due to the unsatisfactory nature of education.
In a year where there has been so much chaos for the lives of young people, they have been treated with disregard by private landlords, the government and even social media. It isn’t easy to be a student at the moment, by no means.