Angry University of Northampton students protest against 'prison-like' 'halls of residence home to hundreds in town

“The University care more about lining their own pockets than they do about the welfare of their own students.”
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University of Northampton (UoN) students protested against ‘substandard’ living conditions and a ‘prison-like’ atmosphere at a halls of residence home to hundreds in the town.

The rally took place outside at the university’s Waterside Campus on Wednesday afternoon (November 8) at around 4pm.

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Their main grievances are with St John's Halls, a university-owned housing complex home to hundreds of students, where many units are in need of repairs, students say.

Students protested at the Waterside Campus on Wednesday afternoon (November 8)Students protested at the Waterside Campus on Wednesday afternoon (November 8)
Students protested at the Waterside Campus on Wednesday afternoon (November 8)

Despite the deplorable conditions, students are shelling out £153 per week for accommodations that are deemed ‘unsafe and unsanitary’.

One protester said: ““The University care more about lining their own pockets than they do about the welfare of their own students.”

Statement from students residing in St John's Halls:

"Over the years, students have consistently raised the same issues about St. John's Halls, including ever-increasing rent prices, substandard living conditions, and restrictive security measures. We've heard repeated promises from the university, but their responses have been lacking. With over 90 per cent of residents paying £153 weekly for a single en-suite, the conditions are far from satisfactory. The stringent, outsourced security, guest restrictions, and full-height metal turnstiles create a prison-like atmosphere.

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“Many flats face issues like no running water, inoperative hobs and ovens (with maintenance often failing to address them), and significant gaps beneath doors, posing fire safety and privacy concerns. Students complain of malfunctioning showers, poor heating, and broken plug sockets. Questions arise about where our substantial rent payments are being allocated."

The campaign has already achieved one of its demands as the University of Northampton was compelled to rectify an unjust decision. At the start of the academic year, the university imposed an extra week's rent on St John's Halls residents without prior notice and without any mention in their contracts. However, due to vigorous student protest, the university reversed this decision and refunded all St John's residents in full.

The campaign now articulates the following demands for the University of Northampton:

  • Reverse the decision to charge St John's residents an extra week's rent against the terms of their contracts (Already achieved).
  • Take immediate action to improve living conditions.
  • Introduce rent controls in all student accommodations.
  • Initiate a significant building program in collaboration with the local council to provide high-quality, affordable housing for students and local residents.
  • No evictions for students who cannot afford rent.
  • Provide emergency cost-of-living grants for all.
  • Ban agency and contract fees.

In response to the student demands, a spokesman for the University of Northampton said: "We have apologised to students for an additional accommodation charge, which was the result of an administrative error. These payments have been refunded and credited to students' accommodation accounts. We understand that students live within a budget and that this additional charge may have caused some distress, and we have already implemented measures to prevent this from happening in the future.

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"We continuously work to avoid rent increases for University-managed accommodation, and any revision of prices will be linked to inflation and the cost of utilities such as energy and gas, which have risen exponentially since the start of 2022. Where possible, we've absorbed increased costs of running our halls of residence so that rent from September 2023 has increased by only 4 per cent, which equates to only a £5 rise on the cost of a standard single bedroom. The increase is necessary to ensure we are able to cover students' utility costs and maintenance of the accommodation."