Maynooth University has reversed a proposed 3% rent increase in on-campus accommodation and have introduced a rent freeze. In a statement online today, Maynooth Students’ Union (MSU) announced the decision, saying it was a result of “student pressure” following a number of protests on campus. This is the first Irish university to reverse their decision to increase on-campus accommodation costs next year.

A decision was made in March to increase the cost of Mayooth’s on-campus accommodation by 3% next year. The decision was met by immediate condemnation by MSU and sparked a movement to oppose the proposed increases. A petition of over 2,000 signatures was also given to university authorities. Currently, the cost of accommodation in Maynooth ranges between €4,600 and €6,370 for the academic year.

The rent reversal and freeze was decided in a meeting of the University Executive on Tuesday, without the direct participation from MSU. The 12-member committee is chaired by Maynooth President Philip Nolan who presides over a number of senior officers and college Deans.

The university said in a statement in March: “Maynooth University is fully committed to providing affordable student accommodation. […] The rental income funds accommodation essential maintenance and ongoing improvement works, in addition to funding the additional 196 new beds that were commissioned in 2017.”

On March 13th, a meeting was scheduled to occur between members of the MSU and three senior managers in the university, with the rent increases on the agenda. This meeting was cancelled due to the government sanctioned university closures. The MSU was later informed that the issue was placed in the agenda of a meeting of the University Executive on Tuesday, which resulted in the reversal of the 3% increase and a rent freeze.

MSU President Katie Deegan has said today: “While the COVID-19 crisis brought a premature end to our physical protests, continued to engage with University authorities in challenging this decision. We also engaged with media outlets and politicians to keep this issue on the agenda. Today we are delighted to be able to deliver good news to students in what is an uncertain time for us all.”

Deegan went on to say: “It is crucial that third level education is recognised as a right and not a privilege for those who can afford it. We are delighted that the university has made this decision. I hope students reading this see how effective taking action alongside your Union can be! Ní neart go cur le cheile.”

The MSU have not been informed of the reasoning for the decision, but they have welcomed the move from the university authorities.

Protests erupted on campus in February this year when UCD’s University Management Team (UMT) took the decision to increase rents on campus by more than 12% over the next three years. At the time, UCD Students’ Union President Joanna Siewierska maintained that the decision was made “behind closed doors” and with “zero consultation with any student representatives.”

In an interview with the Irish Times, UCD President Andrew Deeks defended the university’s decision. “The way you solve the housing crisis is building more houses, you don’t solve a housing crisis by putting caps on rents, you don’t solve a housing crisis by subsidising people to pay rents, all that does is push up the rents.”

In 2006, a room in UCD’s cheapest accommodation block in the Belfield campus cost €3,544 from September to May, with an additional fee of €353 for utilities and insurance. The base fee has increased by 88.57% to €6,683, a raw increase of €3,139. By 2022, the most expensive accommodation facilities will cost over €12,000 for a nine-month tenancy during the academic year.

UCD has the most expensive on-campus accommodation in Ireland by a significant margin. A number of Irish universities have taken the decision to increase on-campus accommodation, resulting in student protests nationwide before the implementation of the current health crisis restrictions from the government.

 

Conor Capplis – Editor