Murray Edwards has some of the highest rents in CambridgeHassan Raja

An accommodation survey circulated by Murray Edwards’ Senior Tutor, Dr Kate Peters, has come under fire from students for the questions it posed.

In an email sent to students on Monday, Dr Peters circulated an ‘Accommodation, Rent and Finance Survey’ in response to ongoing concerns about the College’s high rent and the financial difficulties that many students have experienced as a result.

The survey was strongly criticised for asking students about their spending habits on clothes and cosmetics, as well as leisure and entertainment. Murray Edwards’ Student Collective (MEC) took to Twitter to criticise this focus. In particular, they pointed out that students were not asked about other common expenses such as travel, medication, and family support.

A spokesperson for Murray Edwards College told Varsity: “We understand some of the questions in the survey came across as invasive and insensitive; that was never our intention and we have apologised to our students.”

As of the morning of Tuesday 30th April, the ‘living expenses’ questions have been removed. This leaves only questions that relate to termly budget, rent, and accommodation. Any responses to these questions already submitted will be disregarded.

In response to the survey, MEC circulated a guide for students on how best to respond. The guide argued that the survey’s line of questioning was “gendered and misogynistic,” and that the questions found in the ‘living expenses’ section of the survey “reek[ed] of a ‘deserving/undeserving poor’ attitude.”

MEC’s guide to responding to the survey recommended that students respond to these questions by saying: “Our spending habits bears no relevance on whether or not we are entitled to affordable housing.”

The guide also recommended that students respond to the ‘current state of your accommodation’ section of the survey by “remind[ing]” the college that “the nicest rooms in the world would not justify the financial strain that rent, as it stands, puts on students.”

“We have no choice but to live here, and deserve to be able to affordably,” the guide added.

Murray Edwards notoriously has some of the highest rent costs in Cambridge. Last year’s CUSU Big Cambridge Survey found that, of the students who responded, students at Murray Edwards paid the second highest average rent cost in Cambridge, at £170.57. For the year 2018/19, students must spend a minimum of £1,548 per term for a single room, and some pay as much as £1,994 per term. Despite these high costs, the College Council announced in January that it would raise rents by 2.4% for 2019/20.

MEC carried out its own survey in November which found that some students at the college struggle to eat as a result of their rent. On Twitter, MEC criticised the college for raising rents after being presented with a report on the findings of their survey, and called the college’s decision to subsequently release its own survey “patronising.”

MEC’s survey also found that almost two-thirds of respondents did not think the cost of rent reflected the quality of the accommodation. In testimonials, students have reported having to deal with mice, as well as problems with lighting, heating, and poor kitchen facilities.


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In an anonymous testimonial provided by MEC, one student said that the high rents had had a “persistently and overwhelmingly negative” impact on their mental health and financial security, while another said: “I feel ignored and sidelined by own my college," adding that they had personally found the college’s responses “hostile and frustrating.”

A spokesperson for Murray Edwards College told Varsity: “Our only aim is to get a really clear picture of the nature and extent of student financial need so we can work with the JCR and the student body more widely to develop accommodation policies and student support initiatives that meet the needs of the Murray Edwards College community.”

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