As the crisis of capitalism deepens, workers and youth are the first to suffer. Students across the country are facing worsening living conditions and seeing their quality of education drop. This year has seen a crisis of student housing begin to emerge. Without democratic control of universities by students and staff, there is no solution to this.
A student housing crisis has emerged, with students in cities across the country worrying about whether they will have a roof over their heads.
In Durham, students have been camping outside estate agents to sign for houses. In Glasgow, they were told to defer a year or drop out completely, as there was no housing in the city. At Manchester Metropolitan University, students were housed in a different city; in Bristol, it was literally another country, across the border in Newport.
This crisis is born out of the culmination of a marketised education system alongside wider housing issues.
University finances faltering
In August, we published an article discussing the crisis emerging in University finances. University bosses were revealing that they were no longer covering their costs when it came to British students.
Suggestions were emerging of raising the tuition fee cap for British students, or taking in more international students, who pay 3 times as much on average, over British students. This year, Universities have taken in more students without increasing resources, leading to a shortage of just about everything for students.
Housing has become the most prevalent of these shortages, with first year accommodation in high demand. Private rentals for second and third years are also in high demand with only 1 room for every 3 students. This is the harsh conclusion of Universities taking in more students than they have the resources for, and a generalised housing crisis for renters across the country.
Students squeezed for cash
The systematic marketisation of higher education in the UK is far from merely a contributing factor to this crisis, but the direct cause. Students are treated as cash cows, herded into university cities at maximum quantity, or in reality above it, to squeeze them for as much money as possible. Whether the Universities and the cities they preside in can cope with this is an unimportant technicality to those in management.
University accommodation owners, many of whom are private businesses, are given an easy ride. A trapped market of naive young people must be every capitalist’s dream. Whether they are privatised companies like Unite Students or owned by the University, the tactic is the same: cut costs, raise prices and in this case, expand the market.
Increased rents and greedy landlords
On top of being thrown from pillar to post with first year accommodation, many students are struggling to now find shared housing for second and third year. With the rise of interest rates, landlords are looking to sell their properties, fearing that this will quickly become a money loser.
Whether student or worker, rented housing is increasingly hard to come by. Under capitalism, this results in the rising of rents.
A study by housing union Acorn revealed that almost half of their respondents had their rent increased since 2021, with the average increase being 10%. 16% of respondents were advised to ‘bid’ above the asking price for rent and 19% were forced to move out of a city, town or borough because of rising rents.
I was recently looking for a new room to rent in London.
Here’s some of the outrageous/bizarre/probably illegal things I encountered 🧵
— Lou (@lounewton_) November 16, 2022
The parasitic landlord class have been gleefully exploiting this situation.
“There’s been a lot more pressure to get a house sooner . . . They’re going so quickly,” said a second-year music student, whose monthly rent will increase 70% next year.
With demand so high, these leeches have gained complete freedom to demand extortionate rent prices. They are only expected to grow, reaching insultingly high rates: It is estimated that student private rents have risen 19.3%, and university rents by 14.5%, since 2016-17.
Capitalist crisis rears its head
The housing crisis has provided yet another display of the inherent contradictions and flaws within this system. Endemically unstable and exploitative, the capitalist mode of production is causing crisis at every turn. And who is footing the bill for the contradictions of this system? It is the workers, and youth every time.
This is being proven daily in the collapse of the British education system. Ultimately, it is the staff and students on campus who facilitate the running of universities and it will only be through them democratically running universities for themselves in which we will see the liberation of education.
Down with the marketisation of education! Forward to student/staff control of universities!