Gonville and Caius is the seventh wealthiest college in CambridgeHuangcjz

Gonville and Caius College has caused controversy by raising rent prices by 9.5 per cent in one year and food prices by 6 per cent. Students have complained that they were not adequately consulted during the decision making process.

The average rate for accommodation at Gonville and Caius, where students are expected to live for the entirety of their undergraduate degree, is now around £130 per week. The average rent across the other colleges is £100 per week, or £115 for en suite, while the national average rate for un-catered rooms is £111 per week.

The decision was proposed at a Student Charges Committee meeting in June, where students from the JCR and MCR heavily voiced their concerns. However the proposed rise went ahead during the summer vacation. Senior Bursar Dr David Secher cited “severe financial hardships,” and told students that “We’re all in this together.” However, he also warned that: “The more we spend on [the] current generation, less is available for future students.”

Secher pointed out that Caius rooms were still cheaper than at other universities, citing UCL as an example. This was reportedly met with laughter. Students argued that UCL is in London, where all living costs are considerably higher than the norm.

Many students at Gonville and Caius have complained about the poor quality of food in college, which now costs £8.50 per meal. A student present at the meeting challenged Dr Secher, saying: “If we’re all in this together then maybe as a token of respect for what students are going through, the faculty can eat what we eat, just for a term.” However, Dr Secher argued that this would prevent Caius from attracting the best faculty. Disgruntled students have also been suggesting that the wine budget for fellows has increased.

The mood at Caius is said to be one of defeat. The Accommodation Licence states that the College can increase rents at any point and to any price. When asked if this was fair, Dr Secher is said to have called it a “ridiculous suggestion.” Dr Secher emphasised the fact that he was a tutor for 10 years and therefore understands the financial concerns that students face. However, some students have questioned the financial priorities of the college, which hands out hundreds of pounds in academic awards every year to students who gain a First. Dr Secher maintained that academic and pastoral life were separate issues.

Both the college and the University have bursary schemes to support students from low-income families, but there is concern that the most hard hit will be students who just miss out on bursary support.

The wealth of Gonville and Caius has declined in recent years: the college has fallen from third to seventh richest in Cambridge.

Dr Secher told Varsity that the rent increase was part of “a series of measures …to stem the decline and to restore the endowment to its former value in real terms. This was a difficult decision and we knew that some students would experience hardship as a result.” He reiterated the assurance that students would be supported: “Our tutors will continue to work with students to tackle cases of genuine hardship.”

However this defence does not convince Pranjal Arya, a third year at Caius: “The college seems to have weathered the economic downturn really badly compared to other colleges…it seems like the students are being punished for what has been poor investment management by the college.”

“The college are fucking us over,” he added.

An anonymous source from the Gonville and Caius Students’ Union (GCSU) said: “It seems college have little regard either for the welfare of its current students...or for the message this sends to the wider world.”

Olivia Brogan, a first year English student at Caius, expressed concerns that the sudden price hike could have taken incoming freshers by surprise: “I think it is unfair for students on a very tight budget who would have factored rent prices into their college [choice].”

Karthik Chandrasekharan, president of GCSU, told Varsity that students’ concerns had been “heavily voiced.” “There is the worry that...possible future students will be less inclined to apply to Caius...the recent uproar has clearly shown how everyone feels about the rise.”

CORRECTION: This article was amended on October 19th to clarify that the decision to raise rents was proposed at a Student Charges Committee in June, it was not passed at the meeting as was previously stated.