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Don’t overlook students in cost of living crisis, say university leaders

students studying

Appeal to government to target specific measures now towards students.

Parents are being left to pick up the tab as government support for students is eroded to its lowest level in 7 years, with 38% of students saying that they have had to rely on financial help from family and friends.

The 14 year freeze in parental earning thresholds – used to calculate student loans – has left poorer families shelling out more each year to support their children at university.

The new government’s emergency budget on Friday is expected to include measures to cut corporation tax and national insurance. The nature of help offered to ordinary households, such as the original Energy Bills Support Scheme means that students may miss out on support which other people are receiving.

Students need money in their pockets now, especially as the value of their loans hasn’t kept up with inflation. They risk becoming the “forgotten group” in the cost of living crisis.

University leaders are warning that help for students must not come out of the research budget. The commitment made by the previous administration to spend 2.4% of GDP on Research and Development will ensure that the UK retains and builds upon its status as a science superpower.

Polling by Savanta ComRes for Universities UK shows that anxiety about the cost of living crisis is gripping the student population.

  1. Two thirds (67%) are concerned about managing their living costs this autumn
  2. Over half of those concerned (55%) say this might prevent them from continuing their studies.
  3. Postgraduate students – particularly those engaged in research – are more likely to be concerned about costs than undergraduates

Universities are already taking action to help students struggling with hardship by boosting their emergency financial assistance funds. They will be stepping up their support over the coming months to address the cost of living, and want to work with government to ensure students – from undergraduates to PhDs – are supported through this crisis. It is unclear how business support will work at this stage, but universities will do their utmost to pass on savings to students.

Universities would like to do even more to help, but the tuition fee freeze in England means that they are already operating with a severely stretched funding base. Students worrying about their financial situation are urged to seek practical advice and wellbeing support from their university to help them through these difficult times.

Professor Steve West CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, said:

“Students risk 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.

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.”

Universities are calling for:

  • Targeted government hardship funding for UK students
  • The reinstatement of maintenance grants for those most in need
  • Action to ensure that support for students is protected against inflation
  • Increased financial support for postgraduate researchers
  • Ensuring that any government action to support people with rising costs, such as energy, can be accessed by students across the UK, including those in halls  

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