From education to employment

New Blackbullion report finds over three-quarters of UK students worried about getting lower degree results due to the cost-of-living crisis

  • 55% students received lower than expected grades due to being too hungry to study or concentrate; 60% as a result of being too cold
  • 60% of students received lower grades because of the time commitment of part-time jobs; this figure is 67% for first in family students
  • On average, students need £548 extra a month to feel confident they will be able to complete their degree; the money gender gap has grown 20% in a year
  • 65% of students say the cost-of-living crisis has impacted how much their caregivers can support them financially

A new report from Blackbullion, released today, has found that 55% of students have received lower than expected grades as a direct result of being too hungry to study or concentrate. The Student Money & Wellbeing Report reveals that over three-quarters (76%) of students are worried that the cost-of-living crisis will have a negative impact on their final degree result.

In the last year, 60% of students have also received a lower grade than expected because they were too coldto concentrate or study, and the same figure (60%) cited spending too many hours working in a part-time job as impacting their grades. This figure rises to 67% for first in family students. The report also showed how academic attainment is being negatively impacted by other money-saving measures; 56% of students said they’ve received lower than expected grades as they’d avoided, or considered avoiding, the cost of purchasing required books or equipment. The same figure attributed lower grades to cutting back on on-campus lectures and tutorials to save travel expenses.

The report shows that financial cuts are shaping the entire student experience. One third of students surveyed (34%) either have, or have considered, going hungry or cutting down on their daily meals due to a lack of money. 14% of UK students have or have considered using a food bank in the last year; a figure that has more than tripled in two years (compared to 4% in 2021). Almost 1 in 5 (16%) of the students surveyed have cut back on personal hygiene and health items with 9% of female students going without or considering going without period products.

When asked, students said they need £548 extra a month to confidently feel they can complete their degree. Now in its third year, The Student Money & Wellbeing Report has found the student financial deficit has increased by more than a third (39%) from 2022’s gap of £395 and 67% since 2021’s gap of £329. Consistent with previous years, female students are hardest hit financially, with a budget gap of £607 compared to £487 for males. The financial gender gap has grown 20% in just a year.

The net result is that  almost one in 10 (9%) of students surveyed have considered or have dropped out of university in the last 12 months as a direct result of the cost of living crisis. This reflects UCAS 2023 data showing a drop in university applications of 1.9% – the largest fall in demand ever recorded.

The new research also unpacks the extent to which students are countering the cost-of-living crisis the with more hours at work:

  • One in five (20%) if students have taken on a second job in addition to one they already have and over a quarter (28%) have taken on additional hours at work
  • A third of students (31%) are working more than 15 hours a week – the amount most typically recommended by universities as a maximum alongside full-time study
  • Almost one fifth (18%) are working 16-20 hours per week and more than 1 in 10 students (13%) are working over 20 hours per week to carry on studying

Student Money & Wellbeing also reveals the extent to which the Bank of Mum and Dad has been hit by the cost-of-living crisis. When asked, 83% of students say that it has somewhat negatively impacted their parent/guardian(s)’ finances. And 65 % say it has affected how much their caregivers can support them financially; this figure rises to 70% for first-in- family students.

Of this figure, one-third (32%) of the students reported that their parent(s)/guardian(s) are simply unable to offer as much financial support as they have done previously. A further 33% of students said their caregivers are making personal sacrifices to provide the same level of support.

That caregivers are impacted by this cost of living crisis is creating an additional layer of emotional pressure on students themselves. Aware that their parent(s)/guardian(s) are struggling financially almost a quarter (23%) of students are reluctant to ask them for financial support; 42% of reported they felt additional stress as a result and 30% of students feel unable to be honest with their parent(s)/guardian(s) about their money worries because their parent(s)/guardian(s) are struggling financially too.

CEO and founder of Blackbullion, Vivi Friedgut, comments,

“The cost-of-living crisis is unravelling all areas of students’ lives, with academic attainment affected in numbers we haven’t seen before. From daily hunger to period poverty, the tough choices students are making can’t be solved by universities alone; we urgently call on government and industry to collaborate more meaningfully, from scholarship culture through to new funding, to deliver the impactful initiatives that students deserve as part of their university experience.”

“Despite this harrowing picture, most young people we surveyed still fundamentally believe in the value of a university education as a long-term investment in their own futures, with 60% feeling optimistic about their financial futures five years after graduating. It’s our job collectively to help them get there.”

Lee Elliot Major OBE, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, adds,

“These dispatches from the campus front line are deeply worrying in terms of the social mobility prospects for young people. We need to act now to address these inequities. Governments and universities must up their game: offering more extensive hardship funds, providing subsidised food and energy where needed. This is a matter of intergenerational justice and a fight for our future.”

A full copy of Blackbullion’s report is available here.

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