Laurie Chen reports on the latest scandal surrounding UCL’s rent charges
It has been revealed by the outgoing UCLU Halls Accommodation Representative, David Dahlborn, that false rent figures for the academic year 2015/16 were published in the official brochure provided to prospective students at the university’s latest Open Day on Friday 3 July.
In a post published on his Union Representative Facebook page, Dahlborn detailed how 2015/16 rent charges for several UCL student residences were erroneously presented as remaining at their 2014/15 levels in the promotional brochure. In reality, the rates for all types of accommodation across all UCL residences will increase for the next academic year.
Adding to the confusion, Dahlborn stated that the increased rent figures for 2015/16 had already been uploaded onto UCL’s Student Accommodation page when ‘no mention’ had been made in the Open Day brochure.
These allegations form the basis of a letter that Dahlborn wrote to the Head of UCL Publications and Marketing Services, which is quoted in full in the Facebook post. Justifying his decision to report the brochure to the Advertising Standards Agency, he wrote:
The brochure functions as an important marketing tool to prospective students and their families who visit UCL and rely on it as the basis for making an informed decision on whether or not to attend this college. The cost of living in London is a decisive factor for students considering to study in London. Prospective students will look carefully at the cost of living in London and they will trust UCL to provide accurate and truthful information. […] I am at a loss as to why the accurate statistics were not quoted in the brochure, especially as this is such an important piece of information that could have an extremely harmful effect on the lives of new students.
In another Facebook post published on the same day, Dahlborn mounted a further attack on potentially misleading information provided to prospective students on the official UCL website. For instance, on a page that provides an example budget for a first-year UCL student living in halls, the £322 weekly allocation which is considered a ‘reasonable average for about a 39-week year’ would be unaffordable even for a student who is entitled to receive the maximum amount of funding from Student Finance England.*
In response to the damning allegations outlined in Dahlborn’s letter, UCL blamed the mistake on an ‘administrative error’:
Although the copy for the open day booklet was proof-read prior to publication, regrettably this error was missed in the final proofing. We are very sorry for any confusion that this has caused prospective students to UCL. Please be assured that it was never the intention to publish erroneous information anywhere in the booklet.
UCL Publications and Marketing Services also disclosed that they sent “emails to all registered open day attendees advising them of the error and the correct fees for 2015/16”, in what may be viewed as a face-saving exercise.
Undoubtedly, this will put even more of a spotlight on UCL, Cut the Rent, a student grassroots campaign for lower rent in UCL-owned accommodation for which Dahlborn has been a vocal supporter during his time as UCLU Halls and Accommodation Representative.
*The maximum amount of funding available for London students comes to £11,369 for the next academic year. According to UCL’s example budget, the average amount spent by a first-year student would total £12,558 for 39 weeks.
Photo credit: UCL Union Halls Accommodation Representative Facebook page.