A major student protest has occurred in Durham over the planned rise in college accommodation fees.
The protest, titled ‘a funeral for accessible education’, saw a reported 350 students march down the Bailey, a key area for half of the Durham colleges, lead by the Grim Reaper himself.
Students dressed as mourners and helped carry a coffin along the way, in an act of symbolism which certainly struck a chord with many of the University’s students, and with students around the country.
The fees, which organisers of the march claim would leave students over £2000 worse off than their counterparts at York for similar catered accommodation, are opposed by a large number of students at the University, particularly due to the fact that in just five years fees have rocketed by more than £2500.
One first year student at Durham raised her particular concerns over the future of the demographic at the University. “I quite frankly think it is an outrage that the University feel as though they can keep increasing fees at such a rate. For me I’m incredibly concerned that they risk making Durham an elitist University, especially given that many poorer students will be losing out on grants in the future.
“I’m curious to see if it keeps on increasing at this rate because I simply won’t be able to live in college in my third year if so. University should be accessible to all, not simply the wealthy.”
Many supporters of the protest simply feel that their voice isn’t being listened to; despite opposition from the Student Union and various interest groups and societies, the University continued in their decision to rise the fees for the next academic year.
The protest raises questions over accommodation fees here at York as well, where many first years are currently living in accommodation on 51 week lets, paying upwards in the region of £6,700 for some single en-suite self-catered accommodation in Halifax college for example.
Ben Leatham, YUSU president said: “Rising accommodation fees for students is a national issue. Here at York we are lobbying the University to ensure that all future builds include a variety of accommodation bands so students have options based on their price range. We are also pushing for value for money on campus, particularly with the laundry service.”