Nottingham Uni students occupy a building in rent protest

UoN students took over the Engineering Science Learning Centre to fight for rent and tuition fee rebates.

Following on from nationwide protests seen earlier in the year, students at four different universities have occupied campus buildings in action against rent and tuition fee payments.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the university experience has altered dramatically. Online learning has become the norm and staying at home, rather than in accommodation, has been the only option for many students.

There were no plans originally to reimburse the students paying for unused accommodation, and there have been no talks in place regarding a tuition fee rebate for those studying this year.

This inaction led to a widespread movement at the start of 2021 with over 45 groups coming together to push for a rent strike. Now students from Manchester, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, and Nottingham University have taken over buildings to fight against what they see as continued unfair treatment.

“Students are tired of being used as profit motives.”

Millions of pounds have been given in rent rebates already for those in university owned accommodation. But many students have been unable to gain compensation due to being in private housing, and these activist groups believe the work done so far hasn’t been enough.

NottsUniRentStrike Organiser Joel Butterworth on rent and tuition fees through Covid

NottsUniRentStrike described the occupation as “part of a movement across the country to protest tuition fees and the treatment of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The list of demands from the protest group are:
Tuition Fee rebates for the 20/21 academic year.
No repercussions for those taking part in the occupation.
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.

Nottingham’s protests have received less coverage than the more high profile incidents in Manchester and Sheffield but the groups are collaborating in the hope of applying pressure to their respective universities and the government to improve standards for students.

A statement from the Rent Strike group says “Students are tired of being used as profit motives. They are asking for fee rebates for the 2020/21 academic year, and for universities to work with the government to put an end to the marketisation of education.”

Nottingham University have responded to those occupying the building, saying that Rent Strike is an unofficial protest group and therefore they will not be listening to their demands.