Named and shamed: The universities still charging for tampons
Nine UK universities still make female students pay
by Lucy Woodham
In 2014, campaigners petitioned against the ‘tampon tax’, which considers sanitary products to be a ‘luxurious, non-essential item’.
In light of this, some Students’ Unions in the UK scrapped charging female students for tampons in Union shops and instead provided them for free. Some Unions sell sanitary products for a cost-price, as they don’t have the funding to give them away for free. Other Union’s haven’t done anything to help with the expense of having a period.
This means that women at some universities are still having to pay for the expense of being a woman.
A pack of tampons on average costs three pounds. A regular cycle can be anywhere between four to seven days long, and tampon companies suggest it’s healthy to change tampons every four hours. That’s approx four tampons a-day, meaning you’re probably going to need to buy two boxes of tampons per month. In an academic year, that’s going to cost you £60. In three years, you’re having to spend £180 on something completely natural.
In an investigation by babe, 43 UK universities were contacted to find out whether they still charge for sanitary products. From the universities who got back to us, here are the results.
Unis that are still charging for tampons
Bath University don’t provide free tampons to their female students. Matt Humberstone, the SU Community Officer said that “funding is the most significant reason” for the lack of service, adding that they are “not currently” planning on a mandate in favour of free distribution.
University College London (UCL) do not provide sanitary products for free in their toilets. However, the Women’s Officer is providing free sanitary products at their pop-up office every week in the Print Room Café. A moon-cup is available on request.
Durham University’s Marketing Manager, Georgina Lambert, praised Students’ Unions who were fighting the tampon tax. However, Durham do not currently provide free tampons as there hasn’t been pressure from the student body campaigning for free or tax-free sanitary products.
University East Anglia (UEA) currently supplies sanitary products at a cost-price in their Union shop. However, things are looking up, as a colleague from the SU said: “We have a mandate from Union Council to provide them for free and this is being looked at this semester with a view to launching a free sanitary product range in the very near future.”
Lincoln University Students’ Union do not currently give away free tampons, however in the academic year 2015/16 they did for a brief time in support of a Women’s Liberation Group campaign. The reason why they are not available free of charge again this year is because there isn’t the demand from students.
York University sell tampons for a cost-price in the YUSU shop. Community and Wellbeing Officer, Dom Smithies, said: “We sell a very small line of sanitary products through YUSU shop as we are unable to procure in the volume and therefore at the price of our competitors. As such they don’t offer good value for money even when we cut the prices.” They also haven’t cut costs because there isn’t the demand from YUSU.
Cardiff University don’t presently offer free tampons, but have said it is an “aspiration” to do so. Welfare Officer, Hollie Cooke, said: “We will be trying to introduce sanitary donation boxes within the Union as per an AGM motion which was passed in November. We also aim to roll these out to different schools within the University.”
Universities that give away free tampons
Newcastle University was the first university in the country to provide free tampons through their SU. The University Femsoc ran a campaign Free Periods to provide free menstrual care to those who need it, and also to remove the tax on menstrual care in the Union shop. They achieved their goal in March 2016.
Leicester University, who started their scheme 18 months ago in response to the tampon tax.
King’s College London also provide free tampons thanks to a motion in 2014 put forward by two female student, Hareem Ghani and Noor Khan.
Oxford and Cambridge charge dependent on each College’s common room committee. Because funding is greater in some Colleges than the Union, it is up to the College to decide.
University West England (UWE)
Aberdeen University provide tampons and sanitary towels from their student advice centre, and are also looking into financing a limited supply of menstrual cups.
Birmingham University started giving away free sanitary products after a successful campaign by student Daisy Lindlar. She told HuffPost UK that periods “adds an extra financial pressure to students, particularly when you factor in things like painkillers and new underwear. I know students who literally can’t afford to have periods, and that’s completely unfair.”
University of Reading
Oxford Brookes Union has started a scheme to help students who need emergency sanitary supplies. They provide products in their 24-hour John Henry Brookes Building.
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