UCL Halls are Too Damn Expensive

For most, living in halls isn’t exactly luxurious but we put up with it. Most students experience any number of ‘horror stories’ during their time in student accommodation. Certainly, after only a couple of months at UCL, the newest batch of freshers already have enough to last them a year.

Max Rayne House at UCL
Max Rayne House at UCL, A.K.A, “Max Payne House”

Cockroaches!

If you live in Max Rayne you will now likely be intimately familiar with the cockroaches. Students are finding them across the building; in their kitchens and even in their bedrooms. Does Max Rayne somehow attract unhygienic students or are UCL ignoring what must be an infestation?

UCL's accommodation slogan. The "affordable" bit is, essentially, a lie.
UCL’s accommodation slogan. The “affordable” bit is, essentially, a lie.

Fire!

For other unlucky students, attempting to cook for the first time after arriving ended with the arrival of two fire engines. Understandable, perhaps, if they had burnt their cooking, but not so much when all they did was turn on the ovens. Within minutes the kitchen was filled with smoke due to the incredibly poor condition of these ovens. There are plenty of other stories, too. From toilets being out of use for the first two weeks upon arrival, to a windowsill that is held together with tape and numerous bedroom windows that aren’t even sealed properly.

Water?

There was also the infamous 48 hours during which Ifor Evans and Max Rayne were without hot water and heating after a fuse was blown. At least the students were contacted by management about it… once the problem had been fixed. Fortunately, at the start of term, a few lucky students were able to put off the halls ‘experience’ for about a week as building work had not been completed in their accommodation when they arrived.

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The rent is…

However, if most students, past and present, have had some kind of ‘horror’ experience during their time in halls, why bother writing about them? The answer is simple: the rent is too high. UCL runs some of the most expensive student accommodation in the country and that would be somewhat justifiable if it ran some of the best student accommodation in the country, but it doesn’t. Excluding the ‘horror’ events, the basic standard of student accommodation does not correspond to the price that we are paying. When UCL charge extortionate rents and don’t invest it back into the accommodation (or at least charge lower rents), the students have to put their foot down and do something about it.

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The Truth about UCL Qatar!

Human Rights Abuses how Why We are Campaigning to Stop Them

UCL Campus was established in 2012 and offers various masters and research programs. You must, however, be aware of the terrifying work conditions and more than a thousand workers that died during the building work for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

UCL Qatar
UCL Qatar

This not exclusive to the World Cup, Qatar is know for the vile Kafala system that affects migrant workers (94% of the work-force in Qatar). These workers enter the country through a sponsorship (kafala) system where their bosses are their sponsors. That results many times in the confiscation of their passports by the bosses. Besides, most workers are paid about $1 per hour and most of their first salaries goes towards the plane/boat ticket they took to get to Qatar. Without a passport or money and trapped by the kafala system that states that they need permission from their bosses to move jobs, workers find themselves imprisoned. Workers are also barely allowed to organize to fight for a better life. Trade
unions in Qatar have to be linked to a national state-supervisioned union, and strikes can only happen
after governemntal approval.

LGBT+ Rights Abuses

LGBT+ rights in Qatar are not great either. Currently transgender people do not have the right to challenge their legal gender, male homosexuality is considered a crime and lesbians can also be punished for violating “morality laws”. It is repulsive that UCL, proud to be one of the first university in the UK founded on humanist grounds, have not reacted to those practices in Qatar.

At UCL, 2 December 2014. Omar Raii introducing Shreya Paudel.
At UCL, 2 December 2014. Omar Raii introducing Shreya Paudel at our meeting asking “is UCL complicit in modern-day slavary?”.

What we can do:

We should stand up to defend the rights of our fellow students and workers in UCLQ. Workers should have a decent wage, an independent union and similar work conditions to the workers in the London campus; students should organize in a student union; and LGBT+ students and staff should be protected
from discrimination of any kind.

Last term we organised a meeting together with the University and Colleges Union (UCU) at UCL, asking “Is UCL Complicit in Modern-Day Slavery?”. We had three speakers, including Shreya Paudel – the NUS International Students’ Officer, whose uncle was kidnapped while investigating workers’ rights violations in Qatar – as well as Stephen Russell from the and Alison McGovern MP, the Shadow Children’s Minister.

This term we will be stepping up our campaign to expose and shame the UCL bosses for their compliance with the Qatari Government’s abuses of human rights together with UCLU Amnesty International Society.

Who Are UCL Defend Education?

We’re a group based at UCL, campaigning for free, funded, accessible education, and for social justice and freedom more broadly. We want UCL and other educational institutions to be liberatory and democratic, not tied to serving the interests of business and the government, and we fight for decent conditions for both students and education workers. We resist cuts, marketization and privatisation, not only in education but other public services, and we oppose sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and disablism.

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Our group came out of 2010’s mass occupations and protests against tuition fee increases. Since then, we’ve helped Stratford residents defeat our university’s attempt to bulldoze their homes, played our part in the national campaign that halted the privatisation of student debt, supported campus workers striking for decent pay, and more. We are part of a democratic network of student activists across the country through our affiliation to the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts.

We are a democratic, open group for anyone who agrees with these goals. We meet weekly at 6pm on Mondays. Come and get involved!

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