Student rent
Image credits: wikimedia commons/ Rwendland

Students likely to return to university early unless rent is reimbursed

Ministers have been warned that students are likely to ignore instructions to delay their university return unless their rent is reimbursed.

This comes amid news that UK students are planned to the largest rent strike in 40 years, with almost 600 pledging to withhold rent money in January.

At the start of December, the Department for Education (DfE) published guidance saying that UK students should stagger their return to universities at the start of the Spring term, with return dates determined by degrees and year of study.

Speaking to the i newspaper, an unnamed senior official said that there was little institutions could do to prevent students returning to their accommodation at an earlier date.

The official said they had, “no power” to prevent students returning to private accommodation.”

He added that, in the case of university-owned halls, “we don’t have the power, except by breaching a contract, to tell them not to come back for accommodation they’ve paid for”.

If universities issue formal advice to students to delay their return, there are concerns, “that makes us liable for any rent returns or any reductions for that period.”

In reference to his own institution, the official said: “We as a university are not going to do that. We’re just going to tell our students ‘you don’t need to come back until this date because that’s when face-to-face teaching occurs, but of course you are free as an adult to make your own decisions, we can’t stop you’.”


“Students are already struggling to make ends meet without having to line the pockets of landlords for properties they should not use on public health grounds.”


– Larissa Kennedy NUS President

He said that that governmental compensation would be the best way of persuading students to delay their return: “If you want to encourage compliance with the current guidance, you need to offset any financial loss they might get from following it, so cover their rent.”

NUS president Larissa Kennedy said: “If students are advised not to be in their accommodation from December – February, then the Government must put up more money to support student renters who will be paying hundreds or thousands of pounds for properties they are being told not to live in for months.”  

“Students are already struggling to make ends meet without having to line the pockets of landlords for properties they should not use on public health grounds.” 

A DfE spokesperson said: “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities are at the heart of Government plans, which is why we are providing mass testing for students and recommending a staggered return to campus.”      

“The Government has also announced up to £20m to help students most in need of support in these exceptional circumstances.”

“Students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but these protective measures should allow for a more normal spring term and a better experience for students and staff.”

Research by the NUS found that the average rent for student accommodation accounted for 73% of the student loan in 2018, up from 58% in 2012. Universities generated £1.9bn from residential operations, including hall rents, in the last academic year.

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