University of Bristol students set to withhold rent

Image source, Empics
Image caption,
Students handed in their demands to the university on Friday

Hundreds of University of Bristol students living in halls of residence are set to withhold their rent payments in a mass protest.

Cut the Rent said the students, about 1,100 in number, were angry about what they see as a lack of support from the university for self-isolating students.

The group wants students to be given the option of being freed from rental contracts if they want to move out.

The university said it had "gone above and beyond to provide support".

Cut the Rent handed in their demands to the university on Friday, including a 30% cut in rent for students who stay in halls for the rest of this academic year.

Josefina Nagler Gomez, a first-year law student and member of the group, said students had been encouraged to stay in Bristol for "blended learning" - a mix of in-person and online teaching. But she has yet to receive any teaching in person, she said.

She added: "Other than the monetary side of it, we feel the pastoral care has been incredibly wanting."

She said she had needed to self-isolate for 10 days but food from the university had not initially arrived.

Image caption,
Hundreds of students living at The Courtrooms halls of residence had to self-isolate earlier this month

The number of coronavirus cases recorded at the university passed 1,000 on Wednesday.

In a statement, the university said students who withheld rent would not be penalised academically but that it would "ultimately have to follow [its] standard debt collection procedure".

It said it did not make a profit from providing accommodation. It will meet Cut the Rent on Monday to discuss its demands.

The university said it had been "clear" about its teaching offer "to ensure students can still continue with their studies online if they are self-isolating or choose not to come to Bristol".

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