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University students across the United Kingdom have been organising rent strikes in response to the lack of in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The students have been angered by the fact that they are paying for expensive university accommodation when the classes are all or almost all online. In the UK, most students stay in dormitories, or “Halls” in British English, that are owned by their university. The universities charge high fees for the accommodation and students typically have to use loans in order to pay for their housing. The students are then charged separately for their classes. The tuition fee for classes is typically around £9000 per year, which is much higher than in other European countries.

At the start of the school year in September 2020, university students were assured by their universities that their classes would be held as normal. Most universities sent out schedules to the students and everything seemed to be going ahead as expected in a normal year. However, many universities announced their intentions to move to online classes one or two days after the students had moved into their accommodation. This caused an uproar amongst students as they felt like they had been lied to by the universities. Students felt as if the universities only wanted to make sure they got the students’ money.

The discontent from students comes after almost a decade of anger at the cost of university in the UK. In 2012, tuition fees for universities tripled from a maximum of around £3000 per year to a new maximum of around £9000 per year. There were huge student protests in the UK over the fee increase and although the protests didn’t stop the increase, the anger from students has never really subsided. Now with the pandemic, the accusation that universities are acting like businesses more than schools holds significantly more weight.

The student protests have already led to some concessions from universities. Some universities reduced the rental fees by 30% for the first half of the academic year. Others said they would allow students to break their housing contracts without a penalty but some said they would only allow this if the student was suffering negative mental health effects due to staying in the dormitories. The students are now demanding that universities cut rental fees for the rest of the school year too. Universities are under a lot of pressure as many students now realise that they are customers and not just students.

Difficult words

Strike (n): An organised refusal to do something, a type of protest.

Accommodation (n): Housing, place to stay.

Tuition (n): Payment for school.

Uproar (n): A public expression of anger or outrage.

Discontent (n): Dissatisfaction with circumstances.

Subside (v): To become less intense or severe.

Accusation (n): A charge or claim that someone has done something wrong.

Concession (n): A compromise or response to someone’s demands.

Penalty (n): A punishment for breaking the law or a rule.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

American English Audio:

Match the Synonym!

1. StrikeA. Outrage
2. AccommodationB. Claim
3. TuitionC. Punishment
4. UproarD. Less severe.
5. DiscontentE. Housing
6. SubsideF. Compromise
7. AccusationG. Protest
8. ConcessionH. Payment
9. PenaltyI. Dissatisfaction

True or False?

1. Students in the UK are refusing to attend their classes. T / F

2. The students are angry that they must pay for accommodation. T / F

3. Dormitories in the UK are very inexpensive. T / F

4. UK students normally don’t need to take out any loans for university. T / F

5. Students pay less than £10,000 in class tuition each year. T / F

6. Universities told students their classes would be held as normal. T / F

7. Universities have not canceled any in-person classes in 2020. T / F

8. UK students have been dissatisfied with the cost of university for many years. T / F

9. The student protests were able to decrease the cost of tuition. T / F

10. Some universities have allowed students to break their rental contracts. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. students / United Kingdom / have / been / University / across / rent / the / strikes / organising

2. for / £9000 / The / year / fee / classes / around / is / typically / per / tuition

3. the / students / to / Most / schedules / sent / out / universities

4. a / from / discontent / The / almost / comes after / students / decade / anger / of

5. concessions / The / student / already / to / have / led / some / protests

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

American English Audio:

IntentionsTypicallyIncrease
SeparatelyPressureOrganising
ContractsMaximumAssured

University students across the United Kingdom have been (1)______________ rent strikes in response to the lack of in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The students have been angered by the fact that they are paying for expensive university accommodation when the classes are all or almost all online. In the UK, most students stay in dormitories, or “Halls” in British English, that are owned by their university. The universities charge high fees for the accommodation and students (2)____________ have to use loans in order to pay for their housing. The students are then charged (3)_____________ for their classes. The tuition fee for classes is typically around £9000 per year, which is much higher than in other European countries.

At the start of the school year in September 2020, university students were (4)___________ by their universities that their classes would be held as normal. Most universities sent out schedules to the students and everything seemed to be going ahead as expected in a normal year. However, many universities announced their (5)_____________ to move to online classes one or two days after the students had moved into their accommodation. This caused an uproar amongst students as they felt like they had been lied to by the universities. Students felt as if the universities only wanted to make sure they got the students’ money.

The discontent from students comes after almost a decade of anger at the cost of university in the UK. In 2012, tuition fees for universities tripled from a (6)______________ of around £3000 per year to a new maximum of around £9000 per year. There were huge student protests in the UK over the fee increase and although the protests didn’t stop the (7)____________, the anger from students has never really subsided. Now with the pandemic, the accusation that universities are acting like businesses more than schools holds significantly more weight.

The student protests have already led to some concessions from universities. Some universities reduced the rental fees by 30% for the first half of the academic year. Others said they would allow students to break their housing (8)___________ without a penalty but some said they would only allow this if the student was suffering negative mental health effects due to staying in the dormitories. The students are now demanding that universities cut rental fees for the rest of the school year too. Universities are under a lot of (9)____________ as many students now realise that they are customers and not just students.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. Is it right for the students to refuse to pay their rent?
5. What should the universities do for the students?
6. Should universities treat students like customers?
7. What is the cost of university like in your country?
8. Do university students normally live in dormitories in your country?
9. Is student accommodation expensive in your country?
10. Have universities in your country stopped in-person classes in 2020?
11. Are students right to be angry at the tuition increase?
12. Do you think university should be free?
13. Should the government control the price of university tuition?
14. How has covid-19 affected students in your country?
15. Should students pay less for classes if they are taking them online?
16. Do many people go to university in your country?
17. How important is having a degree in your country?
18. Do you think the students’ protests will work?
19. Is protesting common in your country?
20. Do students get help from the government in your country?