The University of Essex has lost more than £12million in revenue after waiving rent for students not using their accommodation during the pandemic.

National lockdowns meant thousands of students were not able to attend lectures at the Wivenhoe campus due to Covid restrictions with some only returning last month...weeks before term ends.

University bosses responded to the situation and started offering refunds for student accommodation during the first lockdown.

Anyone who wanted to terminate their tenancy was also able to do so without paying additional rent for the remainder of the contract.

There was also a no-cost flexibility policy in place which allowed students to move in and out of their campus accommodation, while paying only for the period they occupied it.

But the loss of rent payments left a black hole in the university’s finances.

A spokesman for the university said: “We have again ensured no financial detriment for students in university-owned and managed accommodation who left their accommodation as a result of the Government winter break travel window.

“Our overall income was reduced by £12.6million as we saw footfall on our campuses drop and summer bookings cancelled and we did the right thing by reimbursing students who vacated their university-managed accommodation.

“We put in place some really tough cost-saving measures, suspending all but essential building expenditure, furloughing staff where necessary and limiting our operational costs.

“We’re proud our staff rose to these challenges and did an exceptional job.

“These measures are now being reversed as soon as practical.”

Despite the uncertainty around the next academic year, the spokesman said applications for on-campus accommodation “have remained strong”.

He added: “We are looking to ensure the value, quality and transformative nature of an Essex University education is maintained while we are also protecting the health and well-being of our students and staff.

“We’re also developing contingency arrangements to manage any further impact of Covid-19 on the next academic year.”