Russell Group universities hike rent at student halls by up to a fifth

The University of Edinburgh - alamy
The University of Edinburgh - alamy

Russell Group universities have hiked rents on student halls by up to 19 per cent for the next academic year.

Rents at some self-catered accommodation at the University of Edinburgh have gone up by almost a fifth to £5,267 for the next academic year, updated information on the university’s website shows.

The remaining student halls at Edinburgh have gone up by around 6pc

Elsewhere, Durham University is planning rent rises of 10.3pc across its college accommodation, which means students will pay £9,156 for a 39-week contract for catered colleges.

Universities planning big rent increases in self-catered accommodation include Glasgow, at 9.5pc and Newcastle at 8.9pc, responses to Freedom of Information requests have shown.

The biggest rental increase in London universities was University College London, which charged an average of £9,177 for student halls in the present academic year and is set to increase rents by 11pc.

Only a handful of institutions, including the University of Liverpool and the University of Surrey, are planning increases in line with or below the Government’s 2.8 per cent increase in maintenance loans for students from England next year.

The below-inflation increase means students outside London can borrow up to £9,978 from the Government, leaving less than £1,000 a year for living expenses after rent at some top universities. Students in London can borrow up to £13,022.

Plea to increase maintenance loans

The findings come as universities have been asking students to rate how anxious they are about their finances for next year. Universities have urged ministers to further increase maintenance loans.

Robin Walker, the Conservative MP and chairman of the education select committee, called on universities to “put the interests of their students before profit”.

He said: “Rent increases above the rate of inflation would be damaging for student welfare and against the long term interests of the universities themselves.

“I recently took part in an inquiry from the all party group for students which reflected on some of the pressure facing students and the fact that even before these increases, many are having to work almost full time alongside their degrees.

“I would hope any university looking at such inflationary increases reconsiders and puts the interests of their students before profit.”

The National Student Accommodation Survey published earlier this year showed that two in five students have considered dropping out due to rent or bills.

A survey of more than 1,000 undergraduate students for the Sutton Trust in January found that a quarter said they were less likely to finish their degree as a result of the cost of living crisis.

A quarter of middle-class students and a third of working-class students said they were skipping meals to make ends meet.

‘Shocking’ hike in rents

A spokesman for the National Union of Students said: “With students facing an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, it is shocking that leading universities are hiking rents.”

Earlier this year, The Telegraph revealed that average annual rents for student halls at some Russell Group universities have risen by about a fifth between 2018-19 and 2022-23 to £6,125 at Glasgow,  £6,335 at Leeds and £4,899 at Oxford.

Students are also facing steep rent increases in privately managed student housing, which they are likely to move into for their second and third years.

Rents at private student accommodation across all Russell Group cities have increased by an average of 14.5 per cent, or £22 per week over the past four years, according to data collected by Cushman & Wakefield, the property consultancy.

A spokesman for Universities UK, the charity that advocates on behalf of universities, said: “Rising costs and inflation are affecting universities like all organisations. They are doing everything they can to support students and are holding prices down where possible, but they face tough choices after absorbing significant costs through the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

“Universities will continue to support students, but we need government to help address this - the 2.8 per cent rise in maintenance support announced for students in England is inadequate and will not cover the real terms cut to maintenance that students have experienced since inflation began to rise.”

Housing ‘the biggest concern’ for students

Barry Will
Barry Will

Barry Will

A 26-year-old student of sustainable development at St Andrews, where rents in halls of residence will increase by around eight per cent next year, Mr Will runs the Campaign for Affordable Student Housing.

He told The Telegraph about the toll that high rents have had on his university experience: “I didn’t realise just how stressed out the housing market was going to be,” he said. “When I first applied to university, I never thought for a second that the biggest concern of the entire time I’d be at university would be housing.

“That’s the biggest concern for every student here, because there’s just no houses. People go through months of stress, trying to find a house, and it just takes over people’s lives.

“We’re seeing some houses in St Andrews that are doubling in price year on year, which is insane, because people are just profiting over how big the demand is.

“In some ways, I am so grateful that I’m about to graduate because I don’t even know what it’s going to look like next year.”

A university spokesman told Fife Today that the rents were increasing “to address major increases in energy, material and maintenance costs, and general inflation”.

He added: “It is standard for accommodation fees to increase in accordance with RPI (Retail Price Index) each year”.

Fraser McGuire
Fraser McGuire

Fraser McGuire

Mr McGuire is a first-year history and politics student at the University of Manchester, where around 350 students are said to have collectively withheld around £2 million of rent in protest over accommodation costs.

Rents are set to increase by around 7pc in self-catered accommodation next year, and by 4pc in catered halls.

Mr McGuire said: “The university has seen the student protests, they’ve seen how it’s affected people, and they’ve actually decided to put it up more next year, which I see as completely insane and very, very out of touch with how much a lot of students are struggling in Manchester.”

He added that the cost of getting his degree was not good value for money, saying: “It’s just about paying a lot of money to get a qualification.”

The university has committed £9 million to helping students with the rise in the cost of living in the current academic year.