Letters – 2 May 2019

May 2, 2019

Student housing needs solutions not posturing

In his defence of private student accommodation providers (“Ways the Augar review could tackle student housing”, Opinion, 27 April, www.timeshighereducation.com), Jon Wakeford of University Partnerships Programme highlights growing concern that students cannot afford accommodation, but provides no solution but to continue to allow providers to do as they please.

There is no doubt that the purpose-built student accommodation market has been allowed to grow to monstrous proportions. A cursory internet search will bring up dozens of articles telling investors how lucrative student accommodation can be. But these profits arise from the increasing indebtedness of students, and in turn this is impacting on their mental health. It is yet to be seen how the Augar review will address housing costs, but we can be unequivocally sure that change is afoot and that cheaper accommodation is possible. Rising resistance and dissatisfaction among students can no longer be ignored, and even the sector itself is becoming more squeamish when discussing profit margins.

We need innovation to ensure affordability, such as reinstating a relationship between universities and all such housing providers, encouraging the growth of non-profit providers and ensuring that sufficient rooms – including accessible rooms for disabled students – are reserved at specific price points related to the availability of finance. Ensuring affordability is about ensuring the welfare of students, and what could be more important than that?

Eva Crossan Jory
Vice-president welfare, NUS

Unfortunate heirs

Writing about justice in his review of Jeffrey Edward Green’s book The Shadow of Unfairness: A Plebeian Theory of Liberal Democracy (Books, 25 April), Lincoln Allison says that “It is jolly unfair that some people have much more money than others, but it is also jolly unfair…to take people’s money off them if they have acquired it within existing rules.”

But it is possible to take people’s money off them in a way that is not unfair once they have died since this can easily be done in the form of swingeing death duties of the kind we had in Britain up until 1949. While people might well be said to be entitled to their own hard-earned money while they are alive, this right does not extend to their heirs.

Similarly, on his point about acquiring wealth within existing rules, Allison ignores what these rules might be. Thousands of people in Britain and America made fortunes during the period of the Atlantic slave trade, but few people today would accept that this way of making money was either just or fair.

Contrary to what Allison says, therefore, it does seem that it is still possible to consider the way in which money has been acquired—rules or no rules—and this debate extends particularly to the question of the inheritance of wealth.

Kenneth Smith
Bucks New University

No embargo needed

Reading the news story “Open access: ‘no evidence’ that zero embargo periods harm publishers” (News, 25 April, www.timeshighereducation.com), I thought it was great to see more sense over embargoes. As a librarian I have repeatedly said libraries are not suddenly going to start cancelling subscriptions if there are no embargo periods for green open access.

However, I need to take issue with the assumption in the article that green open access by definition requires an embargo. It does not. So saying that Robert-Jan Smits “opposes” green open access is wholly inaccurate. Green open access is self-archiving via a repository, ideally with no embargo at all.

Via timeshighereducation.com

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