Exeter students boycott dining hall over living costs

Jocelyn Major 20 February 2014

The JCR at Exeter College, Oxford, have organised a boycott of their dining hall in order to protest against the high living costs faced by Exeter students in comparison to other colleges at the University.

The boycott, which is set to last indefinitely, began on Monday 17 February and the JCR hopes it will pressure the College’s senior management into discussions with students about high living costs.The motion to boycott the hall was passed by a margin of thirty votes and the list of proposers and seconders stands at over one hundred.

Speaking about the reasons behind the boycott, Exeter’s JCR President Richard Collett-White noted: “Exeter ranks bottom in Oxford for living costs satisfaction. We pay an £840 Catering Charge annually and yet more for each meal, making us the most expensive undergraduate college. It costs around £13 a day to eat in college taking the catering charge into account. This undermines our access efforts and affordability. Years of ‘negotiations’ have yielded precious little, leading to widespread demand for a boycott.”

In response to the accusations about the disproportionately high living costs the College’s Rector, Frances Cairncross, told Cherwell: “We are having conversations with the JCR and MCR about their views on the catering charge, and taking the opportunity to explain to them the true nature of college finances, about which there seems to be some uncertainty in the student body.”

Bea Natzler, a first-year at Exeter College, said: “The boycott was passed by a JCR motion a few weeks ago.“For years the College has failed to meet the student body’s requests for full information on just why the costs are so high. Loads of other colleges have been showing their support by opening their halls to us and some local cafes are giving us discounts. Last year a one-day boycott was staged which was adhered to by all the students, but nothing concrete came out of it.”

Whereas Oxford is the fourth most expensive university in terms of its living costs, Cambridge ranks as the fifth, with an average annual spending of £15,999.04 per student.

A number of Cambridge colleges also have fixed kitchen charges; for example, Newnham College has a kitchen charge of £253 per term, Trinity is £159, King’s is £124 and Fitzwilliam stands at £131.

Speaking to The Cambridge Student about the effectiveness of boycotts, Downing JCR President Sarah Lombard said: “That’s what happened at Caius when they raised their formal hall costs.

“The Exeter article is very interesting because obviously their facilities charge is like £266/term … ours is £200, so I could imagine that there would be huge controversy if our was racked up that much!”

An Exeter student has confirmed that the charge is £280 per term for students who live within college, and £120 per term for students who live outside college.