A banner put up in the Engineering and Science Learning Centre at the University of Nottingham - Source: Notts Uni Rent Strike

University of Nottingham students say that they “will not leave” until their demands are met.

The students occupied the Engineering and Science Learning Centre in the early hours of Friday morning (April 23) in protest at “the poor treatment of students and staff this year”.

The occupation has been organised by Notts Uni Rent Strike – a group of students who have been pressuring the university to provide rent refunds for students who haven’t been able to access their accommodation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The groups list of demands, published on social media on April 23, is:

  • Tuition Fee rebates for the 20/21 academic year
  • Rent Strike demands being met with no-penalty contract releases, rent rebates and no repercussions for those involved in the strike
  • End to job cuts, reversal of all cuts made as result of the pandemic
  • An end to the casualisation of staff, with contracts to be brought in house
  • End to the hostile environment and hyper securitisation of the campus
  • An end to the marketisation of education

The group are collaborating with students from the University of Manchester, University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University – who have also occupied their respective university buildings.

Students in Nottingham entered the building without any confrontation from security and are only allowing in students join who have a negative COVID test result.

But on Friday morning (April 23), one student at Sheffield Hallam University was man-handled by member a of security as they locked the doors of a university building.

Co-Founder of Nottingham Rent Strike and organiser of the occupation, Joel Butterworth, believes that the University of Nottingham “has failed its students” and “they put profit over staff and students’ well-being”.

History student Joel Butterworth, Co-Founder of Notts Uni Rent Strike & organiser of the occupation, outside of the occupied university building – Source: Notts Uni Rent Strike

He adds, “Students are tired of being used as profit motives. We have not had face to face teaching since before Christmas and many are still being forced to pay for accommodation that they have not visited since 2020.

We have also been dismissed by the university executive board when asking for a safety net and grace period. It is unacceptable and the university needs to change.”

“We will not be negotiating or considering any demands.”

university of nottingham spokesperson

The occupations are the latest episode in an ongoing feud between universities and their students, as students have engaged in a wave of national strike action on a variety of issues – from sexual harassment to tuition fees.

The largest national student rent strike in history also took place earlier this year, as students from over 45 universities signed up to withhold rent from their universities, in January 2021.

A University of Nottingham spokesperson said in a statement:

“Staff and students can continue to access the building, and we are monitoring the situation to ensure students protest peacefully and safely.

In this most challenging of years for the country, we are doing everything we can to support students’ education, welfare and finances during the national lockdowns and restrictions.

The University has not charged for unused accommodation since January and has made more than £1.75 million available to support students facing financial difficulties resulting from the pandemic.

While we will facilitate peaceful and respectful protest, we will not be negotiating or considering any demands from unofficial protest groups.”

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