Universities demand extra assist for poorest college students in England

Universities demand more help for poorest students in England

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College leaders have stepped up requires ministers to spice up monetary assist in England for college kids from the poorest backgrounds after new analysis confirmed inflation-busting rises in the price of housing.

The calls for observe a report that discovered the typical annual lease for personal pupil lodging outdoors London for the 2023-24 educational yr can be £10,227, in comparison with the utmost upkeep mortgage of £9,978.

The research by accountants PwC and StudentCrowd, a digital platform for the upper training sector, discovered that top power payments coupled with elevated staffing, development and debt-servicing prices had been all contributing to steep worth rises for personal pupil lodging.

College leaders mentioned rising residing prices had been placing college students underneath extra monetary strain, main many to work somewhat than concentrate on research and making tertiary training more and more unaffordable for younger individuals from much less well-off households.

Tim Bradshaw, chief government of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, mentioned the funding hole was “significantly regarding” provided that upkeep loans for college kids in England would improve by solely 2.8 per cent in 2023-24 — effectively beneath anticipated inflation ranges for the yr forward.

“We proceed to induce the federal government to deal with flaws within the upkeep loans system and uplift loans in order that they replicate precise inflation,” he added.

Universities UK, the sector foyer group representing greater than 140 greater training establishments, mentioned the two.8 per cent improve in upkeep loans was “insufficient” and that whereas universities had just lately intervened with assist for college kids from low-income backgrounds, extra was wanted.

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“With inflation nonetheless excessive, it’s crucial that the upkeep assist package deal is reviewed,” added the group.

Pupil upkeep grants got here to an finish in 2016-17 and had been changed by loans, whose worth has shrunk in actual phrases due to excessive inflation, in response to a report launched in January by the Home of Commons library. 

In 2022, an impartial assessment commissioned by the federal government into post-18 training really useful the reintroduction of upkeep grants of a minimum of £3,000 for probably the most deprived college students, however ministers rejected the concept. 

Sir Chris Husbands, outgoing vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam College, mentioned there was an “pressing want” for the federal government to look once more at pupil upkeep preparations.

“The worst off college students, who’re unable to depend on the ‘financial institution of mum and pop’, are being pressured to make troublesome decisions concerning the steadiness between part-time working and research, about what and when to eat,” he added. “That is simply unfair.”

Privately-owned purpose-built pupil lodging has grown as a share of total housing in recent times. It’s both rented on to college students by builders, or through college authorities, relying on the contract preparations. 

Some 30 per cent of the UK’s complete full-time pupil inhabitants of two.4mn stay in such a lodging, in response to the report, nevertheless it warned that with solely 678,000 such beds out there within the UK, “demand is outstripping provide”.

Bristol, Glasgow, Durham and Tub had been among the many college cities the place lodging for the 2022-23 educational yr was “nearly or utterly unavailable” by the top of October final yr, PwC and StudentCrowd discovered.

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Some establishments skilled explicit difficulties after accepting massive numbers of additional college students due to inflated A-level grades through the Covid-19 pandemic, however the report predicted pressures can be unfold extra broadly in 2023-24.

Manchester and Glasgow had been among the many universities with the best will increase in weekly rents — with costs rising 21 and 19 per cent respectively this educational yr — whereas Oxford skilled a extra modest leap of 8 per cent. 

The Division for Training mentioned it had “made £276mn out there this educational yr via the Workplace for College students, which universities can use to high up their very own bursary, scholarship and hardship assist schemes”.

“Many universities have completed a great job to assist college students . . . and we urge college students who’re frightened about their circumstances to talk to their college,” it added.

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