Universities in England and Wales double or triple student hardship funds’, Guardian article, 20 October, Rachel Hall

Students are faced with real-terms shrinking maintenance grants and often less help from families faced with soaring bills. University and student leaders say they are seeing signs of students unable to cope with cost of living crisis

The article writes that Universities in England and Wales are doubling or tripling their hardship funds in anticipation of “unprecedented” demand from students struggling with the cost of living, amid fears of widespread dropouts unless ministers offer more support.

Just days into the new academic year, university and student leaders said they were already seeing signs of students being unable to cope, including not affording books for their courses, working 40-hour weeks, and being at risk of homelessness.

The Russell Group had written to the education secretary to ask for increased maintenance loans and a reintroduction of the pandemic hardship payments.  In the meantime, vice-chancellors have boosted their universities’ packages to help students make ends meet, including free meals, energy grants, rent freezes and increased bursaries.  A survey from NUS Wales in the summer found that 90% of students said the cost-of-living crisis affected their mental wellbeing, especially given the estimated £340 gap between the average UK maintenance loan and living costs.

Tarn and more than 150 student leaders from 80 different universities have written to the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, urging him to include support for students in his medium-term fiscal plan on 31 October to ease the “profound impact on students’ ability to learn”, with three-quarters unable to afford essential course materials, and one in three living on £50 a month after paying rent and bills.

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