Newnham emerged as the college with the highest average weekly costsLouis Ashworth

Newnham College has said that it will refund one of its students – who was made to pay for a longer lease of her room after being unexpectedly made homeless – after her story was featured in Varsity’s investigation into accommodation costs across Cambridge.

Charley Barnard, an MML fresher at Newnham, had to change her room licence from a termly to a continuous one at the end of Michaelmas term after her “family situation imploded”, leaving her and her mother homeless.

Speaking to Varsity as part of an investigation into disparities in rents and charges across colleges, Barnard said that she had been “clear from the start” with Newnham that she “did not have the means to pay” the increased cost of a continuous licence. With fees included, that meant paying £1,173.99 more than a termly licence for the year.

Newnham twice billed Barnard for the increased amount, despite her having been reassured by the senior tutor, Professor Liba Taub, that she would not have to pay it. Barnard, who told Varsity that it was “alienating that provisions aren’t in place for people like me”, eventually paid the increased amount out of her overdraft.


Mountain View

Revealed: Giant disparities in college rent charges leave students struggling

Barnard was contacted by Taub yesterday, who told her that there had been an “administrative error” and that she would now be charged the termly rate but able to remain in college for as long as those on a continuous licence. Taub also said that Barnard would be refunded the difference for the two terms she has already paid for.

“I am absolutely overjoyed about this situation and obviously very grateful to Liba Taub for getting in touch with me as soon as she could, and glad that the Varsity investigation highlighted this to her”, Barnard said.

“However, there are still so many issues with the rent at Newnham”, she continued. “I consider myself lucky to have had my statement noticed by Liba and therefore have my situation reconsidered! But what about those who testified anonymously in the same article?”

She said she would still support any rent campaigning within the College, which was found to have the highest average rent and compulsory charges per week.

“I worry for everyone else who doesn’t get this opportunity, which is why I will still be involved in any Cut The Rent campaigns which may take place at Newnham and in wider Cambridge,” Barnard said.

A spokesperson for Newnham told Varsity that Barnard being charged for a continuous licence was “an administrative error which has now been resolved”, and apologise for “any inconvenience caused to Ms Barnard.”

With an average weekly cost of £178.48, Newnham is 67% more expensive than Homerton, which had the lowest weekly average combined rent and costs at £106.75.

It was announced yesterday that Newnham will be trialling an opt-out to its kitchen fixed charge (KFC) next term, after a vote of the College’s governing body backed testing the scheme which followed extensive campaigning from the JCR committee on the issue.

Under the new scheme, those who opt-out would instead pay a surcharge when buying food at the college’s buttery, where meals are currently subsidised by KFC payments.

Newnham’s KFC – currently £287.95 or £331.14 per term for freshers on termly or continuous licences respectively – makes it the College with the highest weekly compulsory charges.

Speaking to Varsity about the opt-out trial, Newnham JCR’s president, Jess Lock, said she was “excited and pleased that our college has been receptive to experimentation and to student-led change”, adding: “I do hope however that Newnham will continue to make long-term moves towards fairer rent, and to ensure Newnham becomes a more financially-viable environment for every student.

Lock praised the college for listening to students’ concerns.

“The JCR body appreciates college’s willingness to try, to experiment, because we cannot make change without taking the first, often intimidating and disruptive, step”, she continued.

“Refocusing on Newnham’s history as a progressive space in which students may flourish in spite of the challenges they may face (rather than adding to them) is vital, and the JCR Committee will continue their dedication to rechallenging the routines and structures of the college and wider university in order to make Newnham accessible, safe and celebratory.”

Rent Revealed