Exclusive: Students were given £140m in rent refunds last academic year


On average, each student was refunded £1.5k

Danny Shaw

Students who were told they couldn’t return to halls last academic year were given £139.1m in rent refunds or credits. This sum of money was split between 90,696 students across 64 UK universities, The Tab can reveal.

On average, a UK student living in university-run accommodation received £1,541.60 in rent refunds or credits last academic year.

Travel bans, along with periods when individual universities told students not to return to campus, were put in place to fight the spread of coronavirus. This left many students paying for accommodation to which they were unable to return.

Rent strikes and occupations sprung up around the country calling for refunds and for students to be let out of contracts early. In the most part, they were successful with universities eventually dishing out rent rebates or credit notes.

Freedom of Information requests sent by The Tab reveal the unis where students got the most and least in rent refunds, the unis that forked out the most overall, and the true scale of the financial damage inflicted onto academic institutions.

Swansea students received the most in rent refunds

On average, Swansea students living in uni-run accommodation received £5,330 in rent refunds, the highest amount in the UK. 517 students received refunds for the January-March period, costing the university a total of £2.8m.

Meanwhile, students at St Andrews received £3,321 on average, while Glasgow students received £3,104.

Glasgow offered more than just rent refunds

Glasgow University offered four weeks of free rent to students living in house during October, as well as a full rebate to all students who chose not to return in January.

850 students received compensation, amounting to a hefty bill of £2.6m for the university. But Glasgow didn’t stop there in terms of measures to offset the hardship caused by the pandemic.

Glasgow also offered students a whole load of compensation including: a free, three-course Christmas dinner to those still in halls in the last week of term, £50 to all students in house for takeaways, free cupcakes, free pumpkins for Halloween and Easter eggs for…Easter.

At the other end of the spectrum was King’s College London, where on average, students living in uni-run accommodation received just £153 in rent refunds.

Durham dished out £12m in rent refunds and credits to students

Durham dished out the highest amount of compensation offering students £12m in credit notes. The uni also estimates that a further £2.5m of credit notes are yet to be processed. A total of 4,298 students benefitted from this compensation which was offered to students between early January and the end of term.

St Andrews and Manchester shelled out £10.9m and £10.8m on rent refunds respectively.

Edinburgh Napier’s annual rent income plummeted by 50 per cent

It goes without saying that this unprecedented level of rent refunds left universities out of pocket. Edinburgh Napier gave out £1.9m in physical refunds for anything from a few days to the best part of the year.

On top of that, the uni allowed students to terminate contracts early and therefore saw a 49 per cent decrease in rent income from £7.6m to £3.9m.