The headline figure out of Save the Student’s National Student Accommodation Survey 2021 is that students in the UK have wasted almost one billion pounds (£930,270,890) on empty accommodation in the last academic year. This alone is a staggering amount, and the government’s £70 million student hardship fund pales in comparison. It is exacerbated further by only 32% of the 1,300 surveyed students being offered a refund, with a paltry 9% getting a full refund and 23% offered a partial one.
This disparity is demonstrated by a statement from Universities UK, who say that ‘Decisions on accommodation costs are a matter for individual universities, taking into account the circumstances at their institutions and of their students.’ This indefinite approach means that for students it is a luck of the draw as to whether they are granted any concessions, continuing the uncertainty that has permeated this crisis.
Additionally, there is no consideration of the differing requirements between courses for accommodation. One student told Save The Student ‘Instead of case-by-case and taking into account medical students who need access to labs, they have applied a blanket approach which means we miss out on a refund.’ Greedy landlords are nothing new to university students, but when academic institutions fail to provide the basic necessity of secure living arrangements for their customers during a global pandemic, it exposes an unethical disregard that students will remember for a long time to come.
Of course, the blame also lies with the government, whose only demonstration of consistency is their continuation of prioritising schools and colleges over universities, which remain an afterthought. Students are making their voices heard, having led the largest rent strike in forty years, but they are repeatedly being ignored by the establishment. This neglect will negatively affect an entire generational workforce before they have even entered it. Students can only hope that this misspent billion pound figure will finally instigate some action from this unmindful government and UK universities.