Students across the country are facing worsening living conditions, as revealed by the crisis of student housing. The only solution is the nationalisation of student housing, alongside democratic control of universities by students and staff.
The student housing crisis has intensified, with students in cities across the country worrying about whether they will even have a roof over their heads.
In Durham, students have been camping outside estate agents to sign for houses. In Glasgow, students have been told to defer a year or drop out completely, as there is no housing in the city. At Manchester Metropolitan University, students have been placed as far away as Liverpool. And in Bristol, students have been housed across the Welsh border in Newport.
This chaos is the culmination of a marketised education system, layered on top of Britain’s wider housing crisis.
Last summer, university bosses began openly discussing the sector’s financial troubles, revealing that higher education institutions are struggling to cover their costs from British students’ fees alone.
Consequently, vice-chancellors have called on the government to raise the tuition fee cap for native students, whilst also taking in more international students, who pay three times more on average than UK students.
This academic year, universities have taken in more students than ever to plug their funding gap, without any corresponding increase in resources or services. This has led to a shortage of just about everything for students.
Housing has become the most prevalent of these shortages, with first-year accommodation in particularly high demand. Private rentals for second and third year students are also seeing a surge in demand, with only one room available on the market for every three students.
This is the harsh conclusion of universities signing up more students than they have the capacity for, combined with the generalised housing crisis for renters across the country.
The systematic marketisation of higher education in the UK is the direct cause of this crisis. Students are treated as cash-cows: herded into university cities beyond their limits; squeezed for as much money as possible.
Whether the campuses and cities they reside in can cope with this is a trivial technicality for those in management.
All the while, private landlords and university accommodation owners, many of whom are big businesses, are laughing all the way to the bank. A captive audience of young people in desperate need of a roof over their head must be every capitalist’s dream.
Whether halls are owned and run by privatised companies, such as Unite Students, or by universities themselves, the tactic is the same: cut costs, raise prices, and increase profits.
Those who survive the rat-race for first-year accommodation must then struggle to find shared housing for their second and third years. But with the rapid rise of interest rates and borrowing costs, many landlords are now looking to sell their properties, exacerbating the shortage of affordable digs for young people.
Rented housing is therefore increasingly hard to come by for both students and workers, leading to rapidly rising rents.
A study by housing union Acorn revealed that almost half of those surveyed had experienced rent increases since 2021, with the average rise being 10% per year. 16% of respondents were advised to ‘bid’ above the landlord’s initial asking price. And a staggering 19% were forced to move out of a city, town, or borough because of rising rents.
The parasitic landlord class have been gleefully exploiting this situation.
I was recently looking for a new room to rent in London.
Here’s some of the outrageous/bizarre/probably illegal things I encountered 🧵
— Lou (@lounewton_) November 16, 2022
“There’s been a lot more pressure to get a house sooner . . . They’re going so quickly,” a second-year music student Saphyne Husain told the Financial Times. Her monthly rent will increase by 70% next year.
With demand so high, these leeches have gained complete freedom to demand extortionate rents. And these are only expected to grow further, reaching eye-wateringly high rates. It is estimated that, since 2016-17, private rents for students have risen by 19.3%, and university rents by 14.5%.
Poverty amidst plenty
The student housing crisis is yet another display of the madness of capitalism. As a society, we have the technical ability to provide decent homes for all. But the harsh reality is that millions face sky-high rents and appalling, squalid conditions, all whilst thousands of properties remain empty due to speculation.
In order to fix the housing crisis – for both students and workers – profit must be taken out of the equation. All student housing providers, big landlords, and major management companies must be brought under public ownership, in order to ensure high quality, affordable accommodation for everyone.
This should be part of a wider socialist housing programme, involving the nationalisation of the banks, land, and construction companies under workers’ control, in order to rapidly build hundreds of thousands of new council housing every year.
Combined with the expropriation of empty homes, alongside the property portfolios of the super rich, such measures could soon solve Britain’s housing crisis.
To end the marketisation of education, meanwhile, staff and students must be put in control of campuses, running universities democratically in the interests of workers and youth, not fat-cat landlords and bosses.
- Workers and students: Fight the marketisation of education!
- Kick out the profiteers, parasites, and fat cats! For student and staff control of universities!
- End the housing crisis! Nationalise the banks, construction companies, and management firms!