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Research published on 10 Oct 2022 by MillionPlus, a membership organization which aims to promote the role of modern universities in the UK higher education (HE) system, has revealed that 300 000 prospective students will be impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.
Over 70 percent of these young adults come from underprivileged backgrounds. Black and mature students are the two groups most at-risk of immediate financial hardship. Additionally, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, those from areas with lower participation rates in higher education and students who live at home or commute to campus are also more likely to be at risk.
The existing packages of financial assistance announced by the UK government over the course of 2022 fail to help students.
The amount of student loans available is at an all-time low, this means even fewer students from underprivileged backgrounds are likely to attend university over the coming years.
Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University, said:
“While the cost-of-living crisis will affect students from all backgrounds, it is clear from this analysis that it will have the greatest impact on those students who were already facing significant cost pressures.’’
Rachel Hewitt, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, said:
“We must challenge the narrative that all students can rely on parental support.’’
What are the key recommendations for the UK Government, the Office for Students and the Student Awards Agency Scotland
- An immediate increase to maintenance funding for students, ideally in the shape of maintenance grants, though maintenance loan increases would bring welcome relief in the short term.
- An immediate increase in hardship funds for universities to be targeted at students most in need.
- The better inclusion of students in the wider cost of living assistance programmes announced in September 2022.
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge and chair of the All-Party Universities Group was a keynote speaker at the HE conference in London on 20th October 2022. He offered his support and some encouraging words to the HE sector:
‘’We need to help students right now and into the future. The government needs to be bold to protect students’ education and support their incomes.‘’
Are individual universities doing their part and opening their doors to diverse groups of students?
The University of London’s distance and flexible learning programme, gives students around the world – regardless of their Socio-economic backgrounds – the opportunity to study independently; fitting their studies around their lifestyle, their families, their work, and other commitments.
Their vision is to ensure that a University of London education remains accessible to all who wish to study. However, for many potential students the financial cost of pursuing higher education is a considerable barrier, meaning that those with the skill and drive to study for a degree are unable to do so. The University’s Scholarships Programme supports some of their most deserving students, allowing them not only to follow their dreams of higher education but also to pursue careers that enrich their lives, and the lives of their families and communities.
For Abigail, pursuing further study was not something she had previously felt able to do. She was the first of her family to go to university and, as the primary income earner in a household of four, the financial constraints of studying for a degree were a significant barrier. Last year, Abigail was able to enrol in the BSc Computer Science course.
Reflecting on the support she has received, Abigail says, “There is no doubt that, had I not been offered this scholarship, I would not have been able to pursue this course. It has awarded me the opportunity to continue to support my family alongside my studies, without allowing the burden of fees to cause any barriers in my professional development. Technology has historically been a very male-dominated industry, so to be part of a small group of women who, hopefully, can pave the way for younger female generations, is something which I would take immense pride in.”