Churchill plan to raise rents by 7.5% in the next academic yearLouis Ashworth/Varsity

Colleges’ plans to hike rent for the next year have been met with criticism from students.

Churchill and Gonville & Caius College are planning increases of 7.5% and 6% respectively, while Pembroke and St Catharine’s College are expected to announce increases of at least 6%. More colleges are likely to follow.

The decisions come as colleges face a deficit in their accommodation accounts due to inflation – currently at its highest rate in years – and lost conferencing income due to the pandemic.

However, there are fears student maintenance loans won’t cover the costs: rising by 2.3% in the coming year, creating a funding gap for the majority of students. 

Colleges have reassured students by pointing to the hardship funding they have available. 

Caius cite the creation of a new rent bursary – which can be claimed by anyone on the University’s one – starting at £90 and rising to £300 for those with the lowest household income.

However, some students believe the colleges’ approach places too great a burden on them.

Discussions were particularly fraught at Churchill in a forum held by the college bursar and the senior tutor to explain their decision to students. 

One student wrote on the Facebook page Churchfess: “this was supposed to be a conversation yet some responses were dealt with in such a rude and disrespectful way.”

An anonymous St Catharine’s student told Varsity that their College’s “strategy seems to be firstly to push students into hardship and then make them apply for hardship funding to unlock funds donated by alumni”. 

However, in presentation slides seen by Varsity, St Catharine’s says that they are trying to “focus [their] efforts on affordability” and “not trying to make a profit from our students but to make a fair contribution to costs.”

While the College admits that “inflation is hurting every section of society” and that they “cannot fully protect [their students] from this”, they are “only passing half of [their] inflation” onto students: while rent will increase by 6% in 2022/23, they say that the College will face inflation of 11.6%.

One student at Caius was particularly critical of their College’s planned rent increase, hitting out at their current charges by saying “paying over £1400 for an 8m² room is ridiculous and also dishonest because it does not include the establishment charge”, referring to the fee of £227.95 that is added termly to every student’s bill. 


Mountain View

Clare Rent Strike calls off campaign after 40 days

She added: “we own almost all of central Cambridge. Surely they have alternative income streams.” Income from accommodation, catering and conferencing made up only 10% of the College’s total income in 2021.

A spokesperson for Caius told Varsity: “The catering and accommodation account at the College is already in deficit. The rents were agreed after discussions with the JCR and MCR about the inflation of College costs, including utilities. Fellows' charges will rise by the same amount.”

They emphasised the availability of the new rent bursary and said that “students can seek additional financial support through the tutorial system.”

Churchill College and St Catharine’s College have been approached for comment.