Lancaster University accused of charging ’unacceptably high rates’ for food for self-isolating students

A university has been accused of “charging unacceptably high rates” for meal deliveries for students in self-isolation.

More than 1,600 had signed a petition over Lancaster University’s £17.95-a-day scheme as of Thursday.

Coronavirus outbreaks have been seen at universities across the UK since the autumn term started, with thousands of students being forced to self-isolate. 

Some put signs in their windows claiming they did not have food, while others had messages such as “£9k for what?” and “locked up”.

At Lancaster University, an opt-in deal lets students get three prepared meals — including a cold breakfast, cold lunch and an evening meal which is to be heated — delivered for £17.95 per day.

The deal is supposed to be a potential option for students who are self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, a petition shared by students has accused the university of “profiting” off students in self-isolation, claiming the ingredients per portion cost less than £3.

“These parcels … are the only practical way for many to get supplies, given a shortage of delivery slots,” the petition, started by Kyle Westrip on, says.

The petition accuses the university of “charging unacceptably high rates for food delivery”.

A document shared by the university shows the set menu, with meals such as beef casserole available for dinner, wraps for lunch and pancakes for breakfast.

Lancaster University said that the price had “deliberately been set below normal dining-in restaurant and cafe offer, despite additional costs of delivery and disposable containers”.

It is not the first time students in self-isolation have complained about the food options.

A University of Edinburgh student, who is Muslim and vegetarian, claimed last month she had received a ham and chicken sandwich alongside bacon crisps as part of her delivered food while she was self-isolating.

“I couldn’t really eat that,” Leila Peackok told ITV last month. “All the other things inside of the lunch packets they give us are food you expect to be given when you’re on a school trip, that’s not substantial, that can’t get you through the day.”

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “We have teams of staff working 24 hours a day to provide those who are self-isolating in our catered and self-catered residences with three meals a day — including ready-to-heat meals — in line with their dietary requirements and preferences.”

They added:  “On the few occasions when students needs have not been met, we have addressed this as quickly as we can and are working hard to improve our systems.”

Vice-chancellors have pledged to support students who have to self-isolate in university halls when campus outbreaks occur.

Universities UK (UUK), which represents 139 institutions,  published a checklist earlier this week to help universities support student wellbeing in the autumn term amid the pandemic.

Universities should ensure that students have access to basic necessities during self-isolation, including food, laundry services, cleaning materials, bin bags, tissues and toilet rolls, the guide says.

Additional reporting by Press Association



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