Students from Goldsmiths, Roehampton and the Courtauld Institute have joined UCL in a rent strike, protesting the high fees and low quality housing offered by their universities. It’s been estimated that this amounts to about £1 million’s worth of lost revenue from all the students combined.

Unsurprisingly, the NUS has fully backed the strikes. The NUS DP of Welfare, Shelly Asquith, said: “If a national rent strike for affordable student housing were to happen, the union would support it 100%.”

750 students from UCL did not pay their third term’s rent, which was due last Friday. 150 students started the strike in January, and have been joined by hundreds of others thanks to a high profile campaign.

This number now accounts for 15% of UCL students in halls. They are demanding a 40% rent cut.

After an unsuccessful meeting with their college management, 300 students at Goldsmiths withheld a rent payment last Monday. On average, they pay £150 per week.

Eight students from Roehampton are understood to be withholding rent, according to the university’s accommodation office.

Goldsmiths’ Cut the Rent campaign told students in a Facebook FAQ that withholding rent now would not even risk eviction as “you’ll have moved out of halls by the time they could evict you”. The Goldsmiths campaign also warns that their university’s threats of fines for late payments would be just that: threats, as there is nothing in their housing contracts about such charges.

The possibility of eviction is real, but universities are unable to threaten students much further than that, as it is illegal to academically penalise for non-tuition fee debts.

From a PR and student welfare angle, evicting students during exam season is not a great option for the universities.

Last year, a successful UCL rent strike resulted in students winning back a term’s rent (£1368 each).

UCL have also been accused of nelgecting student welfare by cutting all bursaries for low income students. This has only added fuel to the fire of the Cut the Rent campaign.

In a meeting with strikers, UCL’s Head of Estates said he didn’t take into account low income students when deciding rents, adding that some students “simply could not afford to live in London, and that is just a fact of life”.