News Supporting University Students: Webinar

Supporting University Students: Webinar

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Student poverty is on the rise. According to research by Unipol and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), university students in England are left with around 50p a week to live on from their student loans after they have paid their accommodation, the cost of which has increased almost 15% in the last two year. The average annual rent for students in England now stands at £7,566, with the average maintenance loan standing at £7,590 this year, leaving students with just £24 a year to cover living costs. In the case of students receiving the maximum maintenance loan, given to the poorest students, rent still absorbs more 76%. In a poll of 7.2 million students on the UniDays app, three in four said their student loan never or rarely lasted for the full semester. The situation for graduate is also challenging. Those who began university between 2012 and 2022 are now paying 7.6% interest on what their student loans, meaning that almost all will see their loans go up by more than they repay this year.

To support students, the government has frozen capped university tuition fees for home students at £9,250 a year since 2017. In addition to student loans, bursaries and scholarships are available for different courses and institutions, with universities providing financial help to students who meet their selection criteria. The Scholarship Hub provide a free search tool to find funding opportunities for both undergraduate and postgraduate students, while Turn2Us have a tool that allows students to search for grants from charities and other organisations. The government also increased student premium funding last year by £15m to £276m to help students who need further support.

Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed, Assistant Chief Executive at Unipol, highlights that students who are facing financial hardship are being forced to take desperate measures, including illegally doubling up in rooms, taking on increasing amounts of paid work, or avoiding university entirely. Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, argues that “Across most of the UK, the official levels of maintenance support simply do not cover anything like most students’ actual living costs. In the short term, maintenance support should be increased at least in line with inflation. For the longer term, we need measures to encourage the supply of new student housing, which is currently restricted by factors such as higher interest rates and confusion over new regulation.” Universities UK insists that government needs to provide greater support, arguing that the 2.8% rise in maintenance support announced for students in England is inadequate and will not cover the real-terms cut to maintenance that students have experienced since inflation began to rise. Chloe Field, Vice-President for Higher Education at the National Union of Students, said that “the government must take action to ensure an affordable bed for every student. This means a significant uplift to the maintenance loans, implementing rent controls, and overhauling the student funding system while returning to a grants system.”

This symposium will provide a timely opportunity for stakeholders – including senior university leaders, student representatives, academics, education officers, and policymakers – to discuss methods to best support students financially in the wake of a cost-of-living crisis, prioritise student safety and good mental health, and ensure high-quality education.

Programme

  • Examine the state of student poverty in the UK and its impact on educational attainment and dissuading people from starting university
  • Consider the value-for-money of the university experience and teaching that UK students currently receive
  • Evaluate current policy on student fees and funding and evaluate how best to widen participation in higher education and ensure those from poorer backgrounds are able to access university
  • Assess the different approaches taken to student finances in England, the devolved nations, and internationally
  • Explore avenues for radically transforming student finances in order to reduce student and graduate poverty
  • Develop strategies for ensuring students have access to affordable housing
  • Address the mental health challenges facing students today and avenues for providing greater support

To register for the briefing, please click here.