A couple of weeks ago Warwick Students’ Union announced that after working with university management they had negotiated a decrease in the planned rent rise of 3% in the cheaper accommodation, down to 2.56%. And they had managed to keep rent rises in a few other blocks in line with inflation at 3%.
Whilst any victory for rents, wages, working hours and all struggles of this kind should be embraced by Marxists, it is difficult to see such concessions as a real victory for students. Rents at Warwick University, as with elsewhere in the country, are staggering. An average first year student pays £128 per week to live on campus, while the university rakes in a £40 Million a year, £10 million of that being pure profit from accommodation.
There’s a lot of wealth in the university and society as a whole, but it is being hoarded by the managers and the bosses. More than 30% of students at Warwick find themselves being forced into work, at the same time as their studies, due to the cost of living during term time. Students are forced into enormous debt and many cannot even get the full benefit of a university education due to the simultaneous pressures of employment.
We are approaching an all-out crisis in university accommodation. Radical action is needed and reductions of 0.44%, or as one student commented, enough to get an extra Freddo per week, is not enough.
Whilst it is encouraging that action is being taken by the students’ union, they cannot rely on civil negotiations with those who earn £40 Million a year via student rent as a way of solving the cost-of-living crisis for students. Instead they must rely on solidarity between and joint action by students and workers. Linking up with staff unions, the local labour movement and actively organising rent strikes is the only way for meaningful gains to be made.
What we propose is that Warwick Students’ Union should demand:
- All profits from residences to used to subsidise accommodation i.e. a 25% reduction in all rent, effective immediately.
- To achieve this, and more, by organising mass rent strikes of students, through the organisation of democratic rent strike committees in each accommodation block.
- To link up action with the local staff trade unions and labour movement as part of a broader struggle against management, against education for profit, and for democratic staff control of the university.
- To use this as the basis for a national struggle for decent housing by nationalising, without compensation, those sectors of the economy capable of resolving the housing crisis – the big landlords and the largest construction companies.
by Warwick Marxists