The publication Property Week has been forced to withdraw a category from their student accommodation awards, after a handpicked panel of students refused to choose a winner in protest over increasing rent prices. Whilst more halls rooms are needed in the city, we have long worried that a business model designed to recoup the outlay in 10 years and potentially leave the block derelict and unfit for any other use soon after is not a good one for any of those affected.
According to Guardian Students, the 10 students were invited by Property Week to judge a shortlist of providers for the "student experience" category of their inaugural Student Accommodation Awards. The judges instead criticised the entrants for pricing out poorer students and "driving the social cleansing of education".
The panel cited a 2015 study by the NUS, which shows that university rent in the UK increased by 18% over two years, to an average of £146 per week. The report suggests the rise is largely due to the growth of private providers.
A spokesperson for the Student Accommodation Awards said: "Our student judges have sent a clear message that the industry needs to do better. In light of this, we have taken the decision to remove this category for this, our inaugural event, and review it for 2017.
"We will continue to encourage the industry to raise its game and put the student experience at the centre of everything it does."
On the panel was Jenny Killin, welfare officer at the University of Aberdeen students" association, who said: "The real 'student experience" is too often a choice between paying bills or buying food. We are getting into huge levels of debt, only so private businesses can make huge profits.
"Asking us to hand out an award when so many students are being pushed into poverty makes a mockery of what is a very real crisis."
Killin tweeted an open letter to Property Week, pointing out that students" maintenance loans will barely cover even the cheapest rooms on offer at some institutions.
The letter reads: "Unless all students have access to safe, affordable accommodation at every institution and the means to pay for it, there is no cause for celebration, nor the ability for us to award a for-profit sector failing so many of our peers."
The judges" stunt follows a series of university rent strikes and demonstrations co-ordinated by student activists over the past year.
In a recent blog for the Guardian, an anonymous student activist wrote: "Rent strikes are not merely an expression of dissatisfaction with the ever-increasing costs of student housing. It is easy to look at student rent strikers and label them as privileged kids whining about having to pay rent; in reality, we are protesting about high rents keeping poorer students out of higher education."
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