To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 26 May 2021 to Question 2967, how many students have faced difficulty meeting accommodation costs during the covid-19 outbreak.
28 June 2021
The government plays no role in the provision of student residential accommodation. We do not collate or currently hold information pertaining to the number of university students who have faced difficulty meeting accommodation costs.
Universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own rent agreements. Whether a student is entitled to a refund or to an early release from their contract will depend on the specific contractual arrangements between them and their provider.
This has been a very difficult time for students. We welcome the decision from many universities and accommodation providers to offer rent rebates for students who needed to stay away from their term-time address, and we urge all providers to join them and offer students partial refunds. We encourage universities and private landlords to review their accommodation policies to ensure they are fair, clear and have the interests of students at heart.
The government is aware of the disproportionate impact the crisis will have on some students and we recognise that in these exceptional circumstances some students may face financial hardship. The department has worked with the Office for Students to clarify that providers are able to use existing funds, worth around £256 million for this academic year, towards hardship support. The government has made an additional £85 million of student hardship funding available to higher education providers in the 2020/21 academic year. Providers have flexibility in how they distribute the funding to their students, in a way that best prioritises those in greatest need. Support can include help for students, including international students and postgraduates, facing additional costs arising from having to maintain accommodation in more than one location or assistance to help students access teaching remotely.
We know that not all students will face financial hardship. The current measures aim to target support for students in greatest need and the government continues to monitor the situation to look at what impact this funding is having.
If students have concerns about their accommodation fees, they should first raise their concerns with their accommodation provider. If their concerns remain unresolved, and their higher education provider is involved in the provision of the accommodation, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint. If a student needs help, organisations such as Citizens Advice offer a free service, providing information and support.
If a student thinks their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly, they can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice as long as their provider is a code member. The codes can be found at: https://www.thesac.org.uk/, https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain and https://www.rla.org.uk/about/nrla-code-of-practice.shtml.