Students force Accommodation Awards to scrap ‘student experience’ category

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Photo: University of Stirling

A panel of students has forced the publication Property Week to scrap its ‘student experience’ category in its inaugural Student Accommodation Awards.

The panel, made up of ten students from up and down the UK, cited the inexorable rise in student rent costs as their reason for boycotting the award, with an NUS survey finding prices had risen by 18% over two years.

Jenny Killin, a student at Aberdeen University, was one of the judges, who were to pick from a shortlist of accommodation providers for the award.

She posted an open letter to Property Week on Twitter, signed by the other nine judges, which said: “Students are not seeking luxury getaways or cinemas in our living rooms. We are not ‘satisfied’ knowing our student debt is lining the pockets of millionaire shareholders.”

Rent prices for Stirling University accommodation have continued to rise over the last decade, with the most expensive properties rising from £64 a week in 2006 to £141 a week today.

Over the course of a year, new properties such as Juniper and Beech Court can cost up to 93% of a maximum SAAS loan.

Former Students’ Union President Andrew Kinnell spearheaded the Campaign for Fair Rent on campus, which saw 2000 students sign a petition calling for lower rates.

Kinnell said: “In recent years, the amount of affordable accommodation has decreased while the number of more expensive residences has increased. That being said, the quality of accommodation has improved dramatically. I stayed in Geddes Court in first year and to be honest it was, as much as did enjoy my time there, really quite grim.”

A spokesperson for the Student Accommodation Awards said the action of the student judges sent a “clear message” to providers.

They added: “The industry needs to do better. In light of this, we have taken the decision to remove this category for this, our inaugural event, and review it for 2017.

“We will continue to encourage the industry to raise its game and put the student experience at the centre of everything it does.”

The open letter finished by urging providers to allow for greater equality of access to university, with the poorest students being shouldered-out of higher education due to increased living costs.

It read: “We urge all universities to cease the privatisation of accommodation, and to provide a guarantor service.”

Union President Dave Keenan’s recently announced a guarantor scheme for students, which would see the university itself act as a guarantor for those students unable to provide one.

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