It comes after students were told to remain where they were – while many were still at family homes for the Christmas break – until at least mid-February, with teaching pushed online as part of stricter new measures over coronavirus.
They will also be given a four week complimentary extension of their tenancy agreement at the end of the academic year.
Both the discount and extension will be available to students checked-in but not living in their accommodation between 18 January and 14 February.
Students told The Independent last week they were frustrated at the prospect of having to pay hundreds of pounds in rent for accommodation they could not use due to lockdown.
Some universities, such as Essex, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle, have already confirmed students in their accomodation will not have to pay rent if they are not coming back to their accomodation during lockdown.
But Universities UK said the “vast majority” of students do not rent university-owned accommodation, and were relying on decisions made by private landlords or other providers.
Richard Smith, Unite’s chief executive, said: “The new rent discount recognises the challenges and disruption that students face following the Government’s latest lockdown announcement, and we feel that taking this action is the right thing to do.”
Under England’s new lockdown, only students on certain courses – such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science – have been told face-to-face lessons will resume. All others have been told to stay put “wherever possible” and to do university online until mid-February, in government guidance.
A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said the department encourages universities and accommodation providers “to review their accommodation policies to ensure they are fair, transparent and have the best interests of students at heart”.