And yet the university has attempted to defend this…
On average, University of Manchester halls of residence have gone up by almost 40 per cent above inflation since 2004 – the year most first year students were born.
Accessing the university’s website archive, The Manchester Tab can reveal of the 11 halls that still operate today, the average weekly rent has increased by 39.3 per cent above the rate of inflation.
The sharpest price hike, at Whitworth Park, saw an increase of 55 per cent above inflation. Weekly rent currently starts at £115 for the Oxford Road digs. In 2004, it was just £52 per week. Using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, if the 2004 price rose in line with inflation, the halls would cost £86 per week.
On the surface, the £29 difference between what students currently pay each week (£115) and what 2004’s figure adjusted to inflation is (£86), might not seem like a lot. However across a 41 week tenancy, the shortest contract the university offers at Whitworth Park, that’s an extra £1,189 students are forced to shell out.
The University of Manchester has attempted to defend the price rises. “National inflationary pressures on rents vary in degree but have been largely consistent over the years since 2004 when incorporating wages, energy costs, construction costs and contribution to central services,” a spokesperson for the university told The Manchester Tab
The university went on to say its halls are cheaper than private accommodation in the city and halls rent includes water and energy bills, Wi-Fi, twice weekly cleaning visits and the availably of round-the-clock pastoral care.
Whether or not they’re cheaper than private accommodation in the city, they are certainly still expensive. City-centre hall of residence, Horniman House, costs students £219 per week. That’s more than double the £103 it cost in 2004 and is 47 per cent higher than inflation.
Elsewhere in the city, Weston Hall has risen 42 per cent above inflation. The £77 students paid each week nineteen years ago works out to £128 in today’s money. However, the University of Manchester charge students £160.
Within Fallowfield, the situation is not much better. Woolton Hall has also seen a 42 per cent rise above inflation, going from £79 in 2004 (£131 in today’s money) to £164 currently. Oak House remains one of Manchester’s cheapest halls at £111, however it used to be just £54 each week in 2004 – a 40 per cent increase above inflation.
In fact, every hall of residence we researched, the price of weekly rent has risen above inflation.
For a growing number of students, they can’t keep up with the ever-rising prices. Approximately 350 students in halls withheld their rent payment last Thursday in protest against the university, organisers say.
Rent Strike Manchester estimated students collectively withheld £500,000. The university has hit back and described these figures as “guesses” which are incorrect.
In a pointed attack, the University of Manchester went further and said the rent strike has had no abnormal financial impact and the rate of rent payment among students as a whole has been consistent with previous years.
Rent Strike Manchester responded telling the university not to pick fights with its students, and instead to focus on “fighting the cost-of-living crisis” and “supporting its students by lowering the rent in halls”.
First year history and politics student, Fraser McGuire is one of the organisers of Manchester Rent Strike. He told The Manchester Tab students are fed up of feeling as if they are being “squeezed for profit”.
The gropu are calling on the university to cut rent by 30 per cent for future payments this year and to issue a 30 per cent refund for October’s rent payment.
They don’t want the impact of any rent repayments to be passed on to future generations of Manchester students. As such, they are also asking the university to commit to not increasing any halls rents for at least three years.
“Students are worried,” Fraser said. “They’re angry about their financial situation and they blame the university for it. I think if we can keep up the momentum and enthusiasm that we have, we can absolutely win.”
He added: “The university might pretend that they are not actually worried but they absolutely should be because it’s going to affect them massively. Not just the withholding of the rent, but the image and reputation of the uni if they continue to squeeze students for profit.”
A spokesperson for the University of Manchester told The Manchester Tab: “University of Manchester accommodation is comparably priced among the Russell Group and less costly than private accommodation in the city. Unlike most private accommodation all accommodation includes energy bills, water and Wi-Fi, twice weekly cleaning visits and 24/7 pastoral care is available. Prices are set at the start of the year – we make sure our lowest priced halls have the lowest price increases which for this year was 1.5 per cent, many times below inflation.
“We have provided special Cost of Living payments to students recently in recognition of the pressures many are facing in the current global economic environment. Full time students received £170 and part time students received £85; this totals a £9 million support package.”
“National inflationary pressures on rents vary in degree but have been largely consistent over the years since 2004 when incorporating wages, energy costs, construction costs and contribution to central services. The University has absorbed the vast majority of increases to costs of labour, energy and food. We do not make a surplus on our residences taking into account the ‘cost of capital’ including maintaining and replacing old facilities.”