This our response on the measures the University has released today on the 20th of January about Accomodation Rent.
This is a statement from your Students’ Union on the information that has just been released by Brunel University about accommodation rents today. The University will be releasing more information shortly which you can find at students.brunel.ac.uk.
We would have hoped that the details of this plan would have been published earlier today and we expect that it will be released this evening. Please refer to the University’s information, when it is released, for full details.
Our Negotiations on Rent Fees
We have been in conversation with senior university staff for some time and met with the Vice Chancellor, Julia Buckingham, specifically on these issues last Wednesday - we have now finalised a deal which includes a Rent Free Period for those not occupying their university accommodation and a Good Will Payment for those who have been resident on campus which will be realised as a rent rebate against final payment. The details of how students can access these discounts is being published by the University tonight along with some FAQ’s. The University did run a Video Q&A Session on this topic today at 3pm, and they will run another shortly in order to give greater clarity.
For any students not occupying their accommodation, who have already paid or been charged, because of the direct debit due to be taken today - We would advise you speak to the University’s accommodation team to get a clarification on their next steps to reimburse you.
It’s important to note that today's announcement is not the end of our activity. Our negotiations continue and we are always striving to improve the situation for all students during this ever changing period of uncertainty. We felt it important that as rents for term 2 became due, that where we had agreements with the University, they should be able to release that information. We did not want to further the anxiety and distress that we know was building as rumour and misinformation was beginning to spread across social media. We are not going to stop our negotiations. There are still questions about what will happen if Lockdown continues through term 2 and into term 3 and we want to ensure that students are treated fairly and flexibly.
Our key concern is still that students cannot exit from their accommodation contracts yet and this will be our focus in the coming weeks. We appreciate that enabling exits from contracts for those that want to leave now would encourage travel during a lockdown which we all want to avoid, but we will be discussing options once travel is permitted.
No Detriment Policy or Student Safety Net
Some of you may have also seen petitions regarding either a ‘No Detriment Policy’ or a ‘Student Safety Net’ circulating on social media in recent weeks. We have been in negotiation with the University and have already agreed a framework that we believe protects students and protects the integrity of a Brunel degree. This framework has been agree with University Senior Managers, that plan is now out for consultation with the College Management and we hope it can be formally ratified at the next Senate meeting on the 24th of February.
With regards to Tuition Fees we understand this is an exceptionally difficult time for students who have missed out on an experience that previous alumni have enjoyed. We are working with the National Union of Students and other groups to advocate for the Government to write off part of the tuition fees for home students this year without affecting University finances, so jobs, infrastructure and future improvement plans are protected.
We will also be lobbying for Government funds to enable the university to apply equal discounts to those that pay directly for their courses at Brunel (International Students). We will be posting further on this in the coming days and weeks and we urge you all to support us in this action to really help give us a strong voice nationally.
Union and University Hardship Funding
Brunel have also spoken about their now increased Student Hardship Fund which you can apply for here. Which has been increased to £475,000. We urge all students who have been significantly affected financially by COVID-19 and are struggling to support themselves adequately through this very difficult time, to apply for funding from the University or Union Hardship Funds.
Thank You - We’re Not Done
We also wanted to thank you for all that you’ve done in order to strengthen our hand during these negotiations, including students who sent emails, signed petitions and the Brunel Student Justice Campaign who made clear demands. We will continue to work with groups in order to get the best deal for students, during one of the worst years ever for those studying in Higher Education. We want to add that we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we have without the support of the students
We believe that the University has approached the negotiations with sincerity and sympathy and the package offered, although not perfect, is certainly better in our opinion than many being offered at Universities around the country. We believe the financial liability for the University will be a minimum of £3million which is a significant sum of money for an institution of our size. For those that are interested in the University financial position, their published accounts are available through their website. These are statutory documents and can be difficult to understand and we have been assured that the University finance department is translating the key information into much easier to digest format which we hope will be ready to be published in February.
Get In Touch
There are also loads of opportunities to check in with our work on this issue, including emailing your Officer Team, attending our accountability sessions and tuning in to our Friday Instagram Livestreams on Instagram. We wish to continue the conversation mentioned today at our Annual General Meeting with you all.
Finally, we wanted to end this statement by to putting emphasis on something we said earlier in this statement - we will continue to fight for the best situation for our members, the students at Brunel University. We exist to hold the University to account, and critically negotiate with them during this exceptionally difficult time for Students.