Students risk being ‘forgotten’ in cost-of-living crisis – v-cs

Families increasingly having to help students to get through their studies as inflation erodes value of loans

September 21, 2022
Paying bills

The new UK government has been urged to use its upcoming emergency budget to introduce more measures that will provide direct support for students, or they risk becoming a “forgotten group” in the cost-of-living crisis.

Universities UK said measures trailed for the budget on Friday 23 September – such as cuts to corporation tax, stamp duty and national insurance – will do little to benefit students’ current financial situations, and they are also missing out on more targeted support such as rebates on energy bills because these are being paid to householders instead of individuals.

The body warned that, as government support for students has eroded to its lowest level in seven years, 38 per cent of students say they have had to rely on financial help from family and friends, according to polling.

Two-thirds were concerned about managing their living costs this autumn and more than half say they may have to drop out of their studies as a result. 

Vice-chancellors have called for targeted government hardship funding for UK students and the reinstatement of maintenance grants for those most in need.

But any extra money given to students should not be taken from the research budget, they said, because a commitment made to spend 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product on research and development is crucial in ensuring the UK “retains and builds upon its status as a science superpower”.

Steve West, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, said students were at risk of “becoming the forgotten group in the cost-of-living crisis”.

“We need the government to work with us and provide targeted hardship funding to protect them now, before their living costs become so high that they are unable to keep studying,” he said.

"The value of maintenance loans has been steadily eroded. Parents and families are struggling with bills themselves – now they are having to pick up the tab and support their children directly due to declining levels of government support.”

Students are beginning the new term with money worries hanging over them because of rising costs of essentials such as food and energy. 

The results of a National Student Money Survey run by campaign group Save the Student found that average living costs have increased by 14 per cent in a year, with the average student now spending £924 per month, rising to £1,089 a month in London. This means that the average maintenance loan paid to students falls short by £439 every month.

The National Union of Students’ vice-president for higher education, Chloe Field, said students were “faced with a huge crisis” which included “low-paid precarious work, loans not increasing by inflation and shoddy housing that they can’t afford to heat”.

tom.williams@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

If only UUK showed the same concern for University staff. They have allowed the erosion of our pension benefits based on the dubious valuation deficit figure and sanctioned a paltry 3% pay award when inflation is 3 times this figure. How long will it be before a hardship fund is needed for University employees ?
More govt money pumped into universities will only go towards higher VC salaries and other capital vanity projects like renovating buildings and re-decorating interiors.

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