Student leaders at University College Cork have begun a protest at the Quad at the centre of the campus over a proposed rent increase for college accommodation.

They have erected tents on the Quad and say their occupation there will continue, night and day, until the proposed rent hike is reversed.

Temperatures tonight are forecast to fall close to zero in Cork. Met Éireann has issued a status yellow snow/ice warning which remains in force until tomorrow morning.

Rent increases of more than 10% last year have been followed by an announcement of a further three per cent increase for the 2020/21 academic year.

University College Cork manages accommodation for almost 1,300 students over five complexes, at Victoria Mills, University Hall, Victoria Lodge, Castlewhite Apartments and Mardyke Hall.

Accommodation costs for a 37-week contract at Mardyke Hall increased to more than €6,000 in the 2019/2020 academic year.

The college has more than 21,000 students in total. It claims its accommodation rates are "significantly below" those being charged for privately-owned student accommodation in Cork city.

Student Union leaders in Cork announced their "occupation" of the Quad during a lunch-time protest attended by more than 50 students. They are calling for the proposed increase to be scrapped and a rent freeze put in its place for the next three years. They say they will stay on the Quad until their demands are met.

In a statement, University College Cork said: "Any changes to Campus Accommodation rates are considered together with the student representatives who are members of the Campus Accommodation Board. UCC will continue to engage with the students' union on issues of importance to the student body."

The statement added: "Costs of maintaining and developing urgently required, high quality, student accommodation have risen. All profits generated, every year, are reinvested in providing high quality student accommodation and are typically used to cover the costs of refurbishment, security, maintenance and other operational costs associated with providing student accommodation including servicing loan repayments for UCC's existing student accommodation developments. Campus Accommodation UCC is financially self-sufficient, and receives no State funding towards its efforts to create and maintain high-quality student accommodation at rates below the market average."