One of my manifesto points from when i ran in the 2016 bye-elections was focused on the system of Guarantors. So here i’m going to try to explain why it was picked up by me as an important issue, what resources already exist in relation to this scheme and what I plan to achieve and work towards.
What is a Guarantor?
A guarantor is usually a third party who vouches for you and agrees to pay your rent in case you default. Guarantors are normally parents or close relative. Most of the time the guarantor has to be living in the United Kingdom. Your landlord can ultimately take legal action to recover any unpaid rent from your guarantor.Your landlord may want to check that your guarantor is able to pay the rent in the same way that they’ve checked your ability to pay. For example, by carrying out a credit check. However, your guarantor could sometimes be responsible for more than just your unpaid rent. Therefore it is extremely vital that you and your guarantor read every document before signing up with an agency or landlord. (For more on this, click here)
What do you mean by Guarantor Scheme?
Many international/european students might be at a disadvantage if they can’t provide a UK based guarantor. The range of these said disadvantages depends agency to agency, but the most common ones would be paying a few months rent in advance (could range from 2-12 months), or paying a higher deposit or agency fee. As an International student, I can speak from personal experience on how difficult this could be in terms of currency exchange, or if your parents work on a monthly salary basis or you’re here on loans. One way to tackle this could be to have a scheme which enables the union/university to act as a guarantor where the student cant do the following:
a) Provide a UK based Guarantor
b) Provide the demand from the agency resulting from not having a guarantor.
Do we have this at Cardiff University?
Yes. We do have a guarantor scheme. I was fully aware about this after I went around questioning a few people and finally finding someone who does know about it. Student Support at 50 park place can help you in such cases. However, as far as my knowledge goes, this scheme was developed for care leavers or estranged students. Although I wasn’t able to locate an exact webpage with all the information (therefore I will be picking up the issue of better transparency and promotion of the scheme), I was able to locate a Cardiff University blog which gave decent information about the scheme in its existing form. From the blog we know this-
‘In recognition of the difficulties faced by care leavers and estranged students, Cardiff University have introduced a Guarantor Scheme. To be eligible you must be a:
A care leaver or estranged students or have exceptional circumstances agreed on a case by case basis. AND
Be fully registered and be expected to be fully registered for the period of the tenancy agreement. AND
Be a undergraduate or postgraduate student in the second year or subsequent year of study (during the tenancy agreement) or a 1st year postgraduate students who have just completed an undergraduate qualification at Cardiff University’ (Read more here)
The blog makes it clear that this scheme is specifically for a particular category. I am yet to question and assess on how this scheme works (if it does) in the case of International/European students.
Why is this important?
Following Brexit and the recent visa policies being discussed/introduced by the new May government, international students have more barriers and even more than that, fear, of applying to UK universities. The number of internationals applying to UK universities has been falling due to tightened rules on foreign students. (Read more here)
At times like this, it is important for UK universities to reassure students that they are still perceived as friendly destination for foreign students and circumstances should also match up to that perception. With so many political and legal deterrents, issues with Guarantors is also something that should be given priority. And in fact, many universities have already started noticing this issue. Universities like Surrey, Imperial, Bath, York have either discussed/implemented/ or about to implement Guarantor schemes inclusive of international and european students. These plans can provide a great model for us to look at and maybe implement similar schemes here at Cardiff University as well. You can read about all these models below:
So what is the plan?
From hereon, I am planning to meet up with student support at park place and find out how this scheme is implemented and whether internationals and european students have ever applied for this scheme before. If they have, have they been provided with this help and why/why not?
This would also involve going through the scheme at other universities and trying to present that as a case to lobby for something similar here at Cardiff, if possible.
Another important thing would be that in case this scheme in its existing form can help internationals/europeans, then there needs to be improved transparency and media presence of the scheme. Till now many students remain oblivious about the existence of the scheme and finding information on it might not always be straight forward. Union staff and member should also be equally briefed about this scheme. Union officers are most of the time the first point of contact for many students and student groups and therefore their knowledge about this scheme is important.
The fact that Cardiff already has a scheme of care leavers and estranged students makes it easier. We don’t have to start from scratch. However, it is only after fully understanding its effectiveness and mechanism that i can comment on what can be done next. This would require collaboration with the University, Union, agencies etc.
For now, with this article my aim was to spread the information about the existing scheme, the problem with guarantors as a whole and how other universities deal with it.
Relevant links have been provided throughout the article in case you want to read further on certain things.
Thank you for going through this article and in case you have any doubts or queries or even recommendation about it, then please feel free to leave a comment or contact me via my official SU Facebook account.