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‘Listen to Students: Cancel Rent!’ campaign launches

By Joe Evans

Union of Scottish Student Tenant Unions demand universities, landlords and the Scottish government take action and help students with rent.

The Union of Scottish Student Tenant Unions (USSTU) has launched “Listen to Students: Cancel Rent!”, a campaign to demand that universities, landlords and the Scottish government take concrete action to help students who cannot pay rent because of the pandemic.

The demands issued by the USSTU include;

  • A commitment from universities across Scotland and the Scottish government to cancel rent for students living in accommodation provided by their university until face-to-face teaching resumes, including examinable material.
  • The establishment of a relief fund for landlords whose tenants cannot pay full rent because of the pandemic, shifting the burden from the vulnerable tenants to the landlords and the Scottish government.
  • Universities must make hardship funds available and publicise their availability, ring fencing a proportion of these funds specifically for students with housing difficulties, and make access to such funds streamlined and straightforward.
  • Universities must provide guarantees to international students that they will assist with rent issues, and that will alleviate the need to pay rent up front. They must actively protect the interests of students studying far away from home in the uncertainty of a pandemic by offering their full support.
  • Most importantly, the Scottish government must commit to listening to and prioritising the needs of students and tenants over the interests of landlords.

This campaign comes in the wake of research by the National Union of Students last autumn, which found that more than two thirds of students in Scotland were concerned about their ability to pay rent. The Glasgow University Student Tenant Union, acting as part of the USSTU, gave the following statement regarding the aims and motivations behind the campaign: 

“The pandemic has laid bare endemic structural issues within higher education. The government and universities in Scotland must recognise that the marketisation of higher education and the prioritisation of bottom lines, rent, and fees comes at the cost of student well-being. 

“Concessions that have been won through rent strikes – or university management’s fear of rent strikes – show how dire the Scottish government and universities have let the situation become. Having to resort to such action, and campaigns such as “Listen to Students: Cancel Rent!” is a direct result of universities and the government’s refusal to listen to the voices of students. The fact that a seat at the table can only be won through such action is a damning indictment of the complacency and self-interest of university management throughout Scotland.

“The Scottish government has repeatedly claimed that all guidance towards students was drawn up after extensive consultation with “relevant stakeholders”, but it has come increasingly apparent that organisations such as the Scottish Association of Landlords are seen as more important than students, despite their lives, livelihoods, and futures being at stake.

“The actions of the government and universities since September have shown that neither care about the real stakeholders in this crisis. No amount of apologetic, conciliatory, and condescending emails from universities will make up for the human cost of this crisis. 

The time has come for universities and the Scottish government to stop passing the buck to each other and fulfil their duty of care to students. The time has come for students’ voices to be heard, and to be offered a way out of this crisis for which the government and universities are responsible. The time has come to listen to students and cancel student rent.”


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