MOST North-East students will not pay rent for the time they are not in university accommodation due to the latest Covid lockdown, Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland have announced, while Teesside has offered a discount.

The third, England-wide lockdown could last until at late as March, with restrictions likely in place much longer as vaccinations are rolled out to the most vulnerable ahead of the general population. 

Students across the region and the country have demanded refunds on hefty tuition fees and accommodation rent due to a shift to remote learning and being told not to return to university campuses.

The region's universities have now announced rent breaks for students who are not using their accommodation during lockdown, while some others are offering discounts.

Durham University is waiving its fees for who are not using collage halls during 'Epiphany Term', the institution's second term which runs Monday, January 11 to Friday, March 19. 

Remote learning will also take place until then.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor and warden said: “We had already advised students who were not already in Durham that they should not return to the city for Epiphany Term until their face-to-face teaching began, in line with national restrictions.

"We have updated this guidance to advise those students not to return to the City before the start of Easter Term (Term 3).

“College accommodation charges will be waived for students who are not in residence during Epiphany Term.

“We will continue to ensure that all of our students receive a first-rate education and the support they need to achieve their learning outcomes."

Durham University is currently putting plans in place for Easter Term.

Mr Corbridge added: “We fully appreciate this will be unwelcome news for many students, but the health, safety and well-being of our students, staff and the wider community must be our first priority.

“In the meantime, we would urge everyone to follow national guidelines and we will continue to offer our full support to our students and staff throughout the rest of this academic year and beyond.”

Northumbria University has also pressed pause on rent payments, with payments from January 11, the start of the term, not being taken until students are able to return to properties or when the Government allows it.

International students will also have their rent paused until they are able to arrive in the UK and attend University.

A spokesperson said: "We are also continuing to work with the Students’ Union to support their discussions with private landlords, and will continue to provide support – including packages to support self-isolation – as was done during last term."

Newcastle University also says students will not be charged for when they are not in Newcastle and are urging private accommodation providers to also give students reant breaks. 

A Newcastle University spokesperson said: “We have been urgently examining how the latest lockdown affects our students and staff.  

“Any student in University or managed accommodation won’t be charged for the weeks they are not in Newcastle.

"The President of Newcastle University Students’ Union and the Vice-Chancellor have written a joint letter requesting private accommodation providers, who have contracts with Newcastle University students, to offer their residents similar assurances for the remainder of this academic year

Sunderland University previously announced students who want to be released from their accommodation contracts can do so without any penalty.

A spokesperson for the university added: "Currently, we do not see a case for refunds if students are staying with us – which the vast majority of our students will do as they are from overseas – because we have actually increased, and will continue to increase this term, the support on offer to those living in our halls.

"However, it's important to point out that we are constantly reviewing our position in relation to these matters as we receive more guidance and information."

Meanwhile, Teesside University has announced a 50 per cent reduction in rent where students are unable to return to halls for a six-week period.

There will also be a further 10 per cent reduction for those students in Cornell Quarter, with the university noting limited access residents have to the gym and cinema room facilities.

A Teesside University spokesperson said: “We will be writing to students individually with further details of how the discount will be applied.

“We appreciate that this is not the start to the New Year which students were anticipating and we hope that this reduction will provide some welcome financial support.

“As always, we will continue to review the situation and take further positive action if necessary in line with any changes to Government guidance.”

Private accommodation priovders have also begun offering discounts, with Student Roost, which runs 53 halls across the UK, including two in Newcastle and one in Durham, announcing a 100 per cent discount for six weeks. 

A spokesperson said: "We’ve seen first-hand how difficult the last 12 months have been for our residents.

“We recognise that many of our residents are currently away from their university cities. They are following the advice from the four UK governments not to travel back to their university campuses yet, unless it’s essential.

“To help them follow this important guidance, we’re writing out to our residents to offer a discount of up to 6 weeks’ worth of rent."

The temporary rent break is available for students who have been away from the property they live in prior to January 5.

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