The cost of living crisis and universities – FE News

The cost of living crisis is a major challenge for the whole country, particularly as winter approaches. This situation will only be aggravated by the recent economic uncertainty. Universities, their students and staff will be affected like everyone else.

Impact on students

A recent survey by Savanta ComRes for Universities UK shows that anxiety over the cost of living crisis is growing among the student population as they begin the autumn term on UK campuses. Two-thirds (67%) are worried about managing their cost of living this fall. More than half of respondents (55%) fear that this will prevent them from continuing their studies.

Postgraduate students – especially those engaged in research – are more likely to be concerned about costs than undergraduate students.

There are other student populations that may be particularly vulnerable, such as mature students, who often manage family, work, and other responsibilities. Commuter students see increased travel costs and international students currently do not have access to maintenance assistance.

Action by universities

Universities are, of course, doing all they can to support people in difficulty and ease the cost of living pressures they face, ensuring that students can continue their education. They are bolstering financial aid and emergency support programs, with several rent freezes or reductions for university-owned and operated housing.

Many universities work with their student unions to understand where interventions can be best targeted and to provide advice and support on managing finances. Institutions are creating more affordable and free food options on campus, providing food stamps, and expanding and improving access to warm spaces for studying.

Wherever possible, they create and promote more employment opportunities on and off campus to help increase student income. These are just a few of the many and varied measures being put in place, and universities will continue to monitor the impact of the cost of living on their communities and do what they can.

Action by UK Research and Innovation

It is important, however, that universities, students and staff are not forgotten as the government puts in place measures to help ease the pain for households and businesses. It is good that we have already seen action on this, such as the major intervention by UK Research and Innovation to increase the minimum allocation for doctoral students by 10% from 1 October.

More action by government required

The government can and must do more. Universities UK has called for targeted government funding for UK students. We also want to see the restoration of bursaries for those who need them most and measures to ensure that the support currently available to students is protected against inflation and allows students to adequately cover their tuition fees. subsistence. Maintenance loans have not risen in line with inflation for several years, and annual student aid falls below the equivalent of the living wage.

Impact on universities

Universities will do all they can to help, but they will also face financial pressures.

Large energy-intensive organizations

As large, often energy-intensive organizations, rising energy costs will only add to this funding shortage. BEIS has now worked out the details of how the government non-domestic energy bill relief program will work for six months until March 2023, which provides a discount on the wholesale price of gas and electricity to all non-domestic organisations. national.

Government support in this area is helpful, but eligibility (and benefits) for higher education institutions remains uncertain due to the complexity and variety of commercial energy contracts in the sector. Many institutions buy their energy through The Energy Consortium (TEC) and may not be affected because the price they got for their energy is lower, but as the TEC said, even at or below the capped price, energy will always be significantly more expensive than organizations are used to paying.

Institutions are seeking more efficient use of energy as they meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, and a significant number now generate their own energy through renewable sources.

Freeze tuition fees

The tuition fee freeze in England means they are already operating with a very stretched funding base and there will be limits to what they can do. Although there is an overall fee income of £9,250 per student, this has not been adjusted for inflation for several years and is now worth £6,600 at 2012 prices (when fees were introduced) . Direct non-paying funding to universities has also fallen by 78% in real terms.

UK Universities Action

Going forward, Universities UK will continue to identify gaps in wider government interventions and push for areas where students and staff could be better supported. We will also promote and share the practice among our members.

Rent reform

It will also be important for us to be alert to other developments that may exacerbate the cost of living issues mentioned above. For example, the availability of affordable private rental housing could be negatively affected by the Tenant Reform Bill. This bill aims to give tenants on fixed-term tenancies greater security of tenure, which is an important and positive protection. However, it has the potential to disrupt a student housing market dependent on successive and predictable one-year rentals.

Recommendation 1

The DfE should increase hardship funding to enable English universities to provide targeted support where it is most needed. It is important that special needs are understood and addressed across the UK.

Recommendation 2

The Treasury and DfE should reintroduce maintenance grants for the poorest English students in full-time tertiary education in Tiers 4-6, in addition to full-time maintenance loans. Maintenance loans for full-time Tiers 4-6 should be fully inflation-protected to allow students to adequately cover their living expenses. Similarly, maintenance loans for part-time students with a level 6 degree should be fully protected, as well as maintenance loans for part-time level 4-5 higher technical qualifications, when the loans are available from AY2023/24.

Recommendation 3

It is essential that universities can benefit from broader measures to alleviate the cost of living crisis, including the energy bill relief program and a much needed extended support program from April 2023.

By Chris Hale, Policy Director, Universities UK


Series order

Day 1

friday 21 october

  1. Louise Murphy, Economist, Resolution Foundation: The cost of living and the energy crisis for households
  2. James Kewin, Deputy CEO, Sixth Form Colleges Association: The cost of living crisis and 16-19 year olds in full-time continuing education

Day 2

Saturday October 22

  1. Becci Newton, Director of Public Policy Research, Institute for Employment Studies: The cost of living crisis and 16-18 year olds in employment with apprenticeship
  2. Zach Wilson, Senior Analytics Officer and Andrea Barry, Analytics Manager, Youth Futures Foundation: The cost of living crisis and 16-24 year olds “not in full-time education”

Day 3

monday october 24

  1. Nick Hillman, Director, Higher Education Policy Institute: The cost of living crisis and full-time higher and postgraduate education
  2. Liz Marr, Pro-Vice-Chancellor – Students, The Open University: The cost of living crisis and part-time higher education in England

Day 4

tuesday october 25

  1. Steve Hewitt, Continuing Education Consultant: The Cost of Living Crisis: Access to Higher Education and Foundation Year Programs
  2. Sophia Warren, Senior Policy Analyst, Policy in Practice: The cost of living crisis, universal credit, jobs and vocational training

Day 5

Wednesday October 26

  1. Paul Bivand, Independent Labor Market Analyst: Economic inactivity of the over 50s, cost of living crisis and adult education
  2. Aidan Relf, ​​Skills Consultant: The Cost of Living Crisis and Employer Demand for Level 2-7 Apprenticeships

Day 6

Thursday October 27

  1. Mandy Crawford-Lee, Executive Director, UVAC: The cost of living crisis and employer demand for 4+ level apprenticeships and part-time technical training
  2. Simon Parkinson, Managing Director, WEA: The Cost of Living Crisis and Adult Community Learning

Day 7

friday october 28

  1. David Hughes, Managing Director, AoC: The Cost of Living Crisis and FE Colleges
  2. Jane Hickie, Executive Director, AELP: The Cost of Living Crisis and Independent Training Providers

Day 8

Saturday October 29

  1. Susan Pember, Director of Policy, HOLEX: The Cost of Living Crisis and Adult Education Providers
  2. Martin Jones, Vice-Chancellor and David Etherington, Professor of Local and Regional Economic Development, University of Staffordshire: The Cost of Living Crisis – Staffordshire University’s Response
  3. Chris Hale, Policy Director, Universities UK: The cost of living crisis and universities

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