Sheffield students to join largest rent strike in 40 years as Covid tensions mount

University students in Sheffield will join one of the biggest rent strikes in four decades amid growing anger over online teaching, conditions in halls of residence and an alleged lack of mental health support.

Wednesday, 30th December 2020, 5:33 pm

Hundreds of students across the city are deeply unsatisfied with the curtailed university experience they have received this year and the quality of their expensive accommodation, with many saying their flats had not even been cleaned when they arrived.

They are preparing to join their peers from at least 20 other campuses across Britain in witholding rent payments when they return from the Christmas break.

It comes in the wake of a successful rent strike by students at The University of Manchester which saw halls rent cut by 30 per cent for the autumn term, worth between £600 and £900 each.

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Hundreds of students at the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University are planning to join the biggest rent strike in four decades when they return after the Christmas break

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Organisers from Sheffield Hallam’s rent strike said: “The amount of money we have been forced to pay this year for the quality of education and lack of support is shameful. We were brought to university under false pretences as Hallam and our landlords treat us as their cash cows.”

Similarly, representatives from the University of Sheffield’s rent strike said: “Mental health support for students during the pandemic has been inadequate and the £40 care packages often lacked essential items like sanitary products.

"The commodification of higher education has been a disaster for students who are now seen as consumers and exploited for profit.”

Complaints range from nursing students being taught how to give injections by YouTube videos to invasive security guards recording students through windows and accommodation staff allegedly protecting sexual harassers.

On top of that, students that followed government advice and travelled home at the beginning of December have had to pay rent for empty rooms and will still have to pay rent for January – even if they have been told to return a month later.

Rent Strike, a student-led umbrella campaign group, is overseeing the action planned for the new term, which it says is the largest student rent strike in Britain since the mid-1970s.

Students wishing to get involved can find more information on the Sheffield Hallam Univerisity’s and the University of Sheffield’s rent strike Instagrams – @shu.rentstrike and @rentstrikeuos respectively.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.