What's the deal with rent in halls?

Sunday 8 December 2019

Halls rent is a hot topic at the moment, and a big part of the work Shervin (Deputy President – Welfare) and I are doing. To keep you in the loop, and let you know how you can get involved, we’ve written this blog post.

Shervin and I will be on a stall in the Sherfield building from 12 to 2pm this Tuesday (December 10th) if you’d like to talk to us about this issue or anything else.


The Union and the College are currently negotiating over the price of rent in first year halls of residence. We’ve been approached with a ‘bottom line’ to reach; they’ve determined the average price across all rooms should be £190/week, and that we should decide how this cost will be split between different rooms.

On Tuesday 3rd, we had a meeting of Union Council to discuss this and decide on a way forward. Many students came to share their views and experiences, and the debate was livestreamed on Facebook which you can find here.

The Facts

  • The College offers a guarantee to give a bed space to every first-year undergraduate coming to study at Imperial.
  • The focus of the negotiation is on College-owned halls: currently Beit, Eastside, Southside, Wilson, Woodward and Pembridge.
  • Next year, the College is closing Pembridge and is set to open a new hall in North Acton – Kemp Porter – roughly the same size as Woodward.
  • Currently, rents in nearby halls are set at a 2:1 ratio per sq metre with rents in North Acton. As Pembridge closes and Kemp Porter opens, this ratio becomes much more difficult to maintain, as the number of bedspaces in North Acton increases from around 1/4 to almost 1/2 the total.
  • Historically, student rents have covered:
    • Salaries for staff who work in halls
    • Estates costs (e.g. day-to-day maintenance)
    • Long term maintenance
    • The debt taken out to pay for the hall’s construction (the College borrow money to finance the construction of halls, and student rents pay for both the interest on this debt and the debt itself).
  • Changes that have led to this year’s pricing include:
    • Salaries of central staff, which weren’t previously included
    • The long-term maintenance pot increasing significantly
    • Costs associated with the construction of the new hall.
  • In the College's estimation, this constitutes a breakeven model, wherein student rents cover the costs of running halls.
  • There are equivalent rooms in Eastside & Southside and in Woodward & Kemp Porter.
  • When the prices of these equivalent rooms are made equal, the £190/week figure amounts to an average increase of 12.2% for rooms in halls relative to this year.

For more detail on the background facts, see here.

We brought this information to our senior representative committee, Union Council, which voted to reject the College’s proposals by a majority of 36-1, citing the steep increase and questioning the underlying logic on which financial assessments have been made. In particular, questions were raised around whether everything included in the breakeven model is reasonable (“is College actually ‘breaking even’ on this?”), and whether even having a breakeven model is reasonable (“should College subsidise halls?”).

What happens next?

Shervin and I have returned to the College and they have expressed a willingness to work through this impasse together. We welcome this, and we and the other sabbatical officers will be engaging with different senior staff members of the College to reach a constructive solution.

We hope to have something to bring back to Union Council at the next meeting, from 18.30-20.30 on January 21st. These meetings are open to all students, so if you’d like to come along, join us!

What can you do?

At the moment, the single most helpful thing you can do about this is spread the word: share this blog, any relevant Felix articles, and the livestream. Tell your friends about this, and especially get the message around to people who live in halls. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at union.president@imperial.ac.uk.

If this is an issue you feel passionately about, and you'd like to help us get a good deal for students here, we'd encourage you to fill out this register of interest. Thanks!