Glasgow University’s Students’ Representative Council, in its penultimate meeting of the academic year, passed a motion to urge the University Court to end its 32 year contract with residence management company, Sanctuary Housing.
The motion comes after SRC President Liam King voiced his concerns about the standards and cost of University accommodation in an open letter published in The Glasgow Guardian earlier this month.
The motion, passed with unanimous consent, demands that the SRC ‘recognise the severity of the accommodation situation as it now appears’, ‘oppose any future rent increases by demanding at least a freeze on prices for the next four years’, ‘petition University Court to exercise its right to unwind its agreement with Sanctuary/GSV’, and ‘retake control of university accommodation’ as well as ‘discourage new students from staying in GSV accommodation’ – a clause which was reworded before the motion’s passing.
Liam King has confirmed to The Glasgow Guardian that the University Court does indeed have the power to ‘unwind’ its contract.
James Richardson, the motion’s proposer and School of Social and Political Sciences representative, raised concerns that the University’s contract with Sanctuary Housing, operating as Glasgow Student Village, effectively paralysed the University when it came to making improvements or changes to halls. Seconder, current Undergraduate convenor of the College of Arts and vice president (education) elect, Kate Powell said that this year the price of halls had risen by over 2% despite inflation this year being negligible.
The multimillion pound deal struck in 2002, between the University and Sanctuary Housing, was described as a negotiation which neglected the best interests of students and was agreed to by a cash strapped University. Richardson argued that as the University is now running a surplus, it was in the best interests of both the university and its students to regain these properties.
Criticisms of the professional conduct of representatives of GSV were also discussed at the meeting. Vice president (student support), Una Marie Darragh, derided the group’s behaviour, saying: ‘I’ve never seen such disregard for students in my life’ than at meetings with GSV and that SRC representatives were always asked to leave meetings with the housing provider early whilst the group’s teams spoke privately.”
Though the motion’s passing was unanimous, there were concerns about its clause which implored the SRC to ‘discourage new students from staying in Glasgow Student Village accommodation.’ Several council members queried the availability of affordable student accommodation outside of the GSV’s ownership and said that actively discouraging new students from booking accommodation with the group was likely to force students into the hands of West End landlords. Despite defences of the clause’s wording from Darragh, who argued such confrontational language was necessary to influence both the University and GSV, the clause’s rephrasing was agreed. The motion will now state that the SRC will enable new students to make an informed decision about their accommodation provider.
Speaking to The Glasgow Guardian, SRC president Liam King said: “I am incredibly pleased that Council agrees with my assessment that GSV is a leech on the University and our students. But I am even more pleased that Council has mandated me to bring this matter to Court’s attention.”