Frustrated students unhappy with Plymouth University's rent discount offer

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Many students are learning remotely from home as they are unable to return to campus. Credit: ITV News

Students in Plymouth have told ITV News they are growing increasingly frustrated at being unable to return to face-to-face teaching, and having to keep paying rent on accommodation they cannot use.

The Government has said students on practical courses or those requiring specialist equipment can return from Monday March 8th - but everyone else must continue to study remotely.

The University of Plymouth has offered a 50 per cent rent discount for two months Credit: ITV News

A group of 'rent strikers' are asking the University of Plymouth, and private landlords, to offer rebates to students whose rooms have been empty since the end of last year.

The university has offered a 50% cut for the two months covering the current lockdown, and some private companies are making a similar proposal, but many feel that is not enough.

Student Sam Grotzke said: "We've had so little time in uni for the past year that it's just manifesting as frustration at this point.

"We know there's not much we can do other than wait until for it to be safe to go back, but every week it's another week of tuition fees that we've lost, and another week of education that we're not getting.

"Digital education does help, it does supplement in-person education, but it's nowhere near the same."

Read more: The government has announced £50m funding for students - here's how to apply

Some students are threatening to go on 'rent strike' Credit: ITV News

In a statement, the University of Plymouth said the 50% discount is still on the table, and their hardship fund has so far helped more than 800 students.

They added: "We will continue to do everything appropriate to support both imminently returning students, and those we look forward to welcoming back once permitted to do so."

Ava has been at home with her family since Christmas. Credit: ITV News

Ava Keeling is studying maths and physics at Plymouth. Because her course is not practical, she cannot return to campus and has been at home with her parents since Christmas.

"University students have kind of been forgotten in the opening up of things," she said.

"We didn't get any advice about whether we would be returning for our courses until the very last minute."

Chemistry and ocean science student Charlotte Strudwick added: "It feels like every time there's a new announcement university students are the last to hear about it."

The University of Plymouth says it is helping students through a hardship fund. Credit: ITV News

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “This has been a very difficult time for students, which is why we recently distributed up to £70 million to help students most in need this financial year, for example those struggling to cover accommodation costs as a result of the pandemic, in addition to an existing £256 million available to universities.

“Many universities and large accommodation providers have already offered rent rebates for students, and we encourage others to review their policies, to ensure they are fair and transparent, and have the best interest of students at heart.

“We have also been clear that universities should maintain the quality and quantity of tuition, and ensure it is accessible to all students, regardless of their background, and the Office for Students is monitoring online teaching to ensure this is the case.”

Read more: Bristol University to give full rent rebate to students until Easter

Other universities in the South West are offering rent rebates to students who can't make it back to campus.

Professor Lisa Roberts, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, said students who have not returned to campus are being offered a full rent waiver for the duration of the current lockdown.

Plymouth Marjon and Falmouth University are making similar offers.

If students want to make a complaint, they can go through their university and then to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint.

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