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Nearly a Quarter of UK’s 2.5 m University Students Cannot Afford Required Textbooks, As Cost of Living Crisis Escalates

New research has revealed nearly a quarter of the UK’s 2.5 million university students have been unable to afford textbooks required for their courses, due to the rising cost of living, causing fears that underprivileged students will be priced out of higher education. The study by the learning experience and engagement platform Kortext, in association with OnePoll, asked 1,000 university students about how soaring inflation is impacting their lives. 

Students reported that the economic crisis has led to nearly a quarter (23%) not being able to afford textbooks they need for their course, and nearly a fifth (19%) needing to visit a food bank in order to eat, or knowing a coursemate that had done so.

Student Cost of Living Study 2022 also reveals:

●      More than a third of students are relying on parents’ financial help more than ever.

●      One in six are considering quitting their course to get a job, due to financial pressures.

●      Nearly a fifth have needed to visit a food bank to eat, or have a course-mate who has needed to.

●      Economic pressures mean students from underprivileged backgrounds are at risk of exclusion from university education.

The Kortext Student Cost of Living Study 2022 also revealed more than a third (35%) of students are relying on financial help from their family more than ever before, due to the worsening economy, and nearly one in six (16%) are considering leaving their course to get a job.

Meanwhile, a third (32%) said the financial crisis had made them think about their course value for money more than before, with more than a third (38%) believing at least some of their tuition fees should be refunded.

The research also showed how student future hopes were impacted, with four in ten (40%) now believing they will never be able to pay off their Student Loan, and nearly a third (31%) now questioning whether they will ever be able to afford to raise a family.

The study was conducted by Kortext, which is used by over 130 UK universities to provide anywhere anytime access to digital learning resources, to over 1.7 million students.

Kortext founder James Gray said: “The cost of living crisis is gripping the entire nation, and the research shows the burden it is placing on students. Rising inflation means less money in student pockets, which creates heightened financial pressures, which have been proven to limit student potential.

“Meanwhile, universities are feeling the cost of living impact, as students already paying an average of more than £9,000 per year in tuition fees are at serious risk of leaving their course, as they simply cannot afford to live. 

“With new measures launching to publicly track all universities’ student retention rates, the pressure on a university to help its students complete their degrees has never been higher. As such, it will be of great concern to university leaders that a sixth of their students are contemplating quitting their course, due to living costs.”

The research also highlighted the elevated risk that the economic crisis is causing for underprivileged students. James Gray added: “It’s deeply concerning to see how the cost of living crisis is further impacting those students from less privileged backgrounds. 

“We hear a lot about a Government focus on social mobility and ‘leveling up’. However, in times of financial crisis, it’s those with the least who suffer the most, and the research shows evidence that those from underprivileged backgrounds are most at risk. 

“For example, we know from historic studies that Law students are more likely to be from more affluent backgrounds, compared to those studying Arts courses. Our new research shows an Arts student is nearly twice as likely as a Law student to be financially relying on their parents, due to the cost of living crisis (39% vs 22%).

“Equal access to learning opportunities is critical for any progressive society. However, we are at risk of making a university education out of reach for hundreds of thousands of bright young minds from underprivileged backgrounds, unless more is done to reduce the financial pressures upon all students.”

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