Students test out posters for upcoming rent protestsNoella Chye

Cambridge’s Cut The Rent campaigners are close to a breakthrough as campaign heads at Robinson and Magdalene are hoping to present their cases to their respective college authorities in the next two weeks.

The Cut the Rent campaigns, currently active at Murray Edwards College as well as Robinson and Magdalene, aim to urge colleges to reduce their room rent charges, citing high prices and unsatisfactory accommodation. The Big Cambridge Survey 2016, which surveyed 3,427 students and was published by CUSU, found that 57% of Murray Edwards students and 60% of Robinson students were not satisfied with the value of accommodation. At Magdalene, just 24% of students felt their views were represented on accommodation matters.

Accommodation at all three colleges has been criticised for being not only unaffordable, but also poor value for money. Undergraduate rooms in Murray Edwards are priced within categories, the highest band of single rooms costing £1,969 per term for a 39-week license, and the lowest priced at £1,608, including overhead charges, network connection and medical taxi scheme charges. At Magdalene, prices are standardised for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The highest-priced single rooms cost £1,421 every term; the lowest are £1,016. For Robinson, the most expensive rooms are priced at £1,995, while its band of ‘value’ rooms cost £1,330.

Graduate students at Murray Edwards can pay £2,183 for an ensuite room, or the lowest available price for a room with a shared bathroom, £1,635. At Robinson, graduates are charged for fifty weeks of rent at a minimum cost of £5,345, with the most expensive accommodation costing £8,055.

Students at Magdalene made posters detailing their experiences with their accommodationNoella Chye

The Cut The Rent petition at Robinson, which has been endorsed by its JCR, was circulated to students earlier this week, with the hope that it will give as many people the opportunity to read and sign the petition before it is submitted to the college.

Speaking to Varsity, Matt Kite, a third-year Philosophy student at Robinson and campaign organiser, said, “We hope college will understand that as rents continue to rise and the proportion of students from non-traditional Oxbridge backgrounds at Robinson remains one of the lowest at any college, this is not an issue that will go away. We want them to see the need to take action and cut the rent.”

The campaign in Magdalene is similarly gaining traction in the lead-up to organisers approaching the college with a petition before accommodation bills are next sent out. Campaigners gathered in Magdalene bar on Wednesday afternoon to make posters highlighting their experiences with accommodation in Magdalene, titling their Facebook event ‘Accomo-horror’.

One poster read, “Why do I fall behind on my work because I spend all holiday waitressing to cover my college bill?!”. Another featured a drawing of a fuse box captioned, “Old fuse box or IED?”, a reference to one student’s encounter with a fuse box so old it had been sending out sparks. Sprawled across the top of the poster was the quote, “Try not to die in here”, which one student claims they were told by a member of the college maintenance department.

One campaigner told Varsity that they aimed to create, through the distribution of posters, “an atmosphere of concern”. She added, “There’s an underlying tension, but people don’t have a collective voice.


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“It’s not that everyone has a treacherous experience at Magdalene, it’s just that everyone has an experience that doesn’t match up to what they’re paying.”

A document available on the Magdalene Cut The Rent Facebook page lists fourteen entries since its creation in November last year of students’ experiences with accommodation and fines they contend are unfair. Students in three houses allege that the heating leaves much to be desired; in one case, it is “so cold you can’t sleep”.

Additional costs, such as Magdalene’s Kitchen Fixed Charge (KFC), have also been a source of much frustration, with students paying £190 every term to use the gyp rooms in their accommodation and subsidise the cost of eating in Ramsay Hall, the college’s dining hall. The sum has to be paid regardless of whether students use the hall or not. One student commented, “You’re paying £190 a term to use a microwave.”

There have been no significant developments at Murray Edwards since the college responded to the petition last November. A spokesperson told Varsity, “The College held an Open Meeting at the end of November to discuss these issues with all undergraduates and postgraduates. Following this, the President, Bursar and Senior Tutor invited members of the student working group on rents to meet and go through the figures and concerns in more detail. As yet this offer has not been taken up, but the invitation still stands.”

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