Colleges have been experiencing clashes between administrators and students as annual rent negotiations have begun.
Colleges have been claiming that their endowments are not sustainable in the long run and in the current economic climate interest on these has been minimal. They have sought to recoup their losses from students instead.
OUSU Rent and Accommodation officer Jamie Susskind argued: “There is a certain hypocrisy in the fact that when the OCCI (Oxford Colleges Cost Index) is high, colleges insist upon using it, but when it is lower (like this year) they suddenly decide it’s an inadequate measure of inflation. Students have the right to feel hard done by in colleges where this is the case.”
At Merton, many students expressed dissatisfaction with the new rates. 4 years ago, rent increases were negotiated to be increased by 12%, to be implemented in the coming year.
Alistair Haggerty, JCR President commented “The rent increase was negotiated four years ago, so current students were not consulted. The JCR is displeased at the increase. We hope that in the future rent changes will be decided one year before the proposed implementation.”
Hertford also saw high rent increases. JCR president Will Hartshaw said he had negotiated the college down from a 10% increase over two years in real terms to the same increase over three years.
He was uncertain whether students felt this concession was enough and said, “I need to take this back to the JCR and get their opinions.”
At other colleges, however, students said they were happy with the way negotiations had progressed.
Negotiations progressed well at wealthy Magdalen College. According to JCR President Laurence Mills, rent was given top priority in the “JCR Agenda”, which was presented to the President, Home Bursar and the Deans.
“The conclusion of our negotiations with college meant that our rent has only gone up by 2.24% for the coming year. We will be working during this term and over the vac, and report back in Michaelmas. The changes that we recommend will be implemented from October 2010.”
“All in all, the college has been open to working with us in a constructive fashion. In addition to this, only having our rent go up by 2.24% in the next year is a huge bonus.”
The OCCI (Oxford Colleges’ Cost Index) anticipates that college costs will go up by 2.24% this year. However, the previous year’s figures (for 2007/08) were given as 3.91% last year, but have since been revised upwards to 5.92%. Given economics pressures, the figure for this year could also go up.
According to OUSU figures, many colleges run annual deficits of over £1 million per year.