MillionPlus has published new analysis on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on higher education students and identifies those students that will be most gravely affected.
The report, ‘Learning with the lights off: students and the cost-of-living crisis’ also explores some of the vital measures that MillionPlus institutions have introduced over the summer to try and mitigate its worst effects. However, the report also recognises that this is a national issue and beyond individual universities means to solve. The report therefore proposes key recommendations for the UK Government, the Office for Students and the Student Awards Agency Scotland including:
- 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
- Implementing enforcement measures to ensure energy discount payments are passed on to tenants where fixed energy costs are included in their rental charges
Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University and Chair of MillionPlus, 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.
“MillionPlus universities understand these worries having been at the forefront of the widening participation agenda over the last two decades. I am proud that this report outlines the innovative and direct measures they are taking to support students at this challenging time. However, this risk can’t be averted by universities alone”.
Rachel Hewitt, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, said:
“We must challenge the narrative that all students are 18-year-olds and are able to rely on parental support; increasingly with household budgets being squeezed this is not a lived reality.
“For mature students, those who are from low participation areas, first-in-family or commuter students, the cost-of-living crisis seriously risks forcing them out of higher education and damaging their future prospects.
“Much of the assistance programmes introduced by the UK Government up to now do not reach or apply to higher education students. Maintenance loans have also not come close to rising in line with inflation, meaning they have now fallen to a lower level than the National Minimum Wage.
“If the UK Government does not address the financial challenges ahead for students this academic year, it risks a student recruitment and retention crisis which could have a long-term damaging impact on its own education and skills agenda.”