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Landmark HEPI report shows students studying outside London need £18,600 to have an acceptable standard of living

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A major new report (A Minimum Income Standard for Students) by the Higher Education Policy Institute and TechnologyOne shows, for the first time, how much students need to have a minimum acceptable standard of living.

The Centre for Research in Policy Studies (CRSP) at Loughborough University has developed its Minimum Income Standard (MIS) research for over 15 years and for many different kinds of households.

HEPI and TechnologyOne have partnered with CRSP to develop a Minimum Income Standard for Students. Based on focus groups with students situated across the UK, the team constructed and costed a minimum basket of goods and services to develop an estimate for how much students need. The result is an estimate of what students need to participate fully in the world around them.

Findings were developed for 2nd and 3rd year undergraduate students in private rented accommodation. These figures are a common baseline for all students, but the income needed may vary in some cases, particularly with costs such as rent and utilities which students may have relatively little control over, and for students in different types of accommodation.

Josh Freeman, Policy Manager at HEPI and one of the report’s authors, said:

“Though we have known for some time that student maintenance is inadequate across the UK, the size of the gap is striking. This is precisely because there has never been a serious attempt by the government to work out how much students need to live on. It is time for a rethink of student maintenance support.”

“The report is very clear that we do not expect the government to cover all students’ costs. In most cases, it might be reasonable for students to do some paid work, either a few hours while they study or more intensely over the holiday period. But the current situation, where many students have to work 20 hours or more to meet their costs, is unsustainable. Similarly, while it may be reasonable for some parents to contribute, the current expectation is highly demanding.”

Leo Hanna, TechnologyOne Executive Vice-President said:

“It’s imperative to ensure every student thrives academically, socially, and economically, but this latest research into student living costs paints a bleak picture: financial assistance falls short, which we know hinders academic performance and leads to attrition.”

“Government policies that help alleviate such financial pressure have a significant part to play. As part of their duty of care to students, universities also need to make sense of a multitude of data points stored across disparate systems to monitor student wellbeing. But the current departmental, siloed approach and disparate software systems limit their ability to spot patterns or behaviours that, if caught early, could change the trajectory of a student. Smart solutions can better support the administrative and pastoral needs of universities and their students. Our Software-as-a-Service solution for example provides higher education leaders with real-time, holistic data-driven insights that can be transformative.”

Key findings:

  • Excluding rent, students need £244 a week to have a minimum acceptable standard of living. Including rent, students need £366 a week.
  • Adjusting in line with rent prices in different parts of the UK, students need an estimated £18,632 a year outside London and £21,774 a year in London to reach MIS.
  • For a student studying outside London, the maximum government maintenance support, provided to support students to meet their living costs, falls short by £8,405 for English students, £6,482 for Welsh students, £7,232 for Scottish students and £10,496 for Northern Irish students.
  • For those studying outside of London, the maintenance support in England covers just 55% of the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) developed here. The Welsh maintenance support covers 65%, Scottish support covers 61% and Northern Irish support covers just 44% of MIS.
  • For students studying in London, the gap is £8,426 if a student is from England, with the loan covering 61% of students’ costs. The gap is £6,604 if they are from Wales (support covers 70% of costs), £10,374 if they are from Scotland (support covers 52%) and £10,922 if they are from Northern Ireland, where support covers just 50% of students’ living costs.
  • Even a student doing 10 hours a week of paid employment for the whole year and in receipt of the maximum maintenance support will not have enough money to reach MIS. English students must work nearly 19 hours a week at minimum wage, Welsh students more than 14 hours, Scottish students 16 hours and Northern Irish students 23 hours to reach MIS. By contrast, many universities recommend students should work no more than 15 hours during term-time.
  • The parents of an English student who receives the minimum maintenance support and does no paid employment would have to contribute £13,865 a year for the student to reach MIS. For a Welsh student, the contribution is £6,482; for a Scottish student, it is £10,232; and for a Northern Irish student, it is £13,548.
  • Additionally, under the current system, parents in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to contribute to their children’s living costs even if they do not themselves have enough money for a minimum acceptable standard of living.

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