University of Manchester: Student rent offer 'slap in face', union says

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image copyrightTower occupiers
image captionStudents have been "occupying" a university building since Thursday

A two-week rent reduction for students in University of Manchester halls will feel like a "slap in the face" to protesters, a union has said.

Students have been "occupying" a university building in a row over rent and a claimed lack of support during the coronavirus pandemic.

The university has now pledged to reduce rents by two weeks for all students in its accommodation.

Protesters, who had asked for a 40% cut, said this was "far from enough".

The occupation of Owens Park Tower would continue after the "insulting offer", the Rent Strike campaign said.

The University and College Union (UCU) said it was concerned students could be put off from studying at the University of Manchester because of recent events.

Protesters accuse the university of "putting profits before students" after face-to-face classes were halted and accommodation issues were reported.

Earlier this month students living at the university's Fallowfield halls of residence tore down "prison-like" fencing erected around their campus on the first day of England's national lockdown.

'Let down'

As well as the rent reduction the university said students will also be able to break their accommodation agreements and leave halls during term time without receiving a financial penalty.

Jo Grady, general secretary of UCU, said the offer "must feel like a slap in the face" and the union "completely supports" the protests.

She said she was worried students would "speak with their feet" and "choose not to study at Manchester" and urged the university to "meaningfully engage" with protesting students.

image copyrightTower Occupiers
image captionProtesters are asking for a 40% reduction in rent

The university said it had worked closely with students via accommodation representatives and the students' union.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: "That the university are now negotiating shows the power that students have when we take collective, direct action."

She said students had been "let down" at every turn of the pandemic, adding: "We know we deserve better and will fight for it."

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