From education to employment

Incoming government urged to work with universities to help students through cost of living crisis

students walking through corridor

University leaders are asking for immediate and targeted help from the next government for students struggling through the cost of living crisis. This comes after polling by Savanta ComRes for Universities UK showed financial hardship among students is building to crisis point. 

67% of students in higher education are concerned about managing their living costs this autumn, rising to 85% of students aged over 30. Of those, over half (55%) say this might prevent them from continuing their studies. Cost of living anxiety is greater among older, postgraduate students and those who work or have caring responsibilities.

Analysis from Universities UK shows that most government measures designed to alleviate cost of living pressures are unlikely to reach the vast majority of students, as they are mainly targeted towards those on means-tested benefits, pensioners and families.  

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. 

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.2 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.

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

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

“The government must step forward to work with us to provide extra funding for those students sadly struggling through this crisis. With inflation reaching record highs and energy bills soaring they need extra support right now, before they decide their living costs are so high that they can’t afford to continue with their studies. The links between financial stress and poor mental health are clear – and this is likely to put increasing pressure on the NHS.

“It’s time to bring back the maintenance grant and make sure it keeps pace with inflation. Universities are targeting available hardship funding where it is needed the most, but with the value of maintenance loans falling to its lowest level in seven years, this will not be enough for many. We need immediate action from the new cabinet to help students through the difficult winter ahead.”

Read the report here.

Sector Response

Matt Western MP, Labour’s Shadow Universities Minister, said:

“Students should be looking forward to starting the new year, but instead, many are deeply worried about sky high energy bills and living costs, threatening their ability to complete their courses. 

“The Government has been missing in action all summer, too busy fighting amongst themselves to deliver the cost of living solutions people desperately need.

“Labour has a plan to meet the scale of the crisis. Labour would freeze energy bills this winter saving households around £1,000. That’s the fresh start the country needs.”

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