Russell Group responds to new report on student living costs

09 May 2024

A new report from HEPI and Technology One has revealed that students outside London need £18,600 to reach an acceptable standard of living, with living costs significantly outstripping the current levels of maintenance support in all areas of the UK.

Based on focus groups with students across the UK, the report authors created a minimum basket of goods and services to develop an estimate for how much money students need to participate full in university life. The report also reveals the amount of paid work and/or parental financial support that students would need to meet these living costs - estimating that students in England would need to work almost 19 hours a week at minimum, or rely on help from their families even when those households cannot themselves meet an acceptable standard of living.

Responding to the report, Joanna Burton, Head of Policy (Higher Education) at the Russell Group, said:

“With students almost £2000 worse off than if maintenance loans had risen with inflation since 2020/21, this report underlines the growing extent to which students are relying on part-time jobs and parental contributions to achieve a reasonable standard of living. Given the parental earnings thresholds for maintenance loans have been frozen since 2008, and households across the country are under pressure from high living costs, many families aren’t able to make this financial contribution and students are missing out on the support they need. Recent polling from HEPI showed how this is disrupting students’ ability to study and participate in university life, impacting their physical and mental health, and making them consider dropping out entirely.

“Our universities have significantly stepped up support for students so they can focus on their studies – spending tens of millions on hardship funds alongside additional measures on campus – but it is increasingly clear additional help from Government is needed. We continue to call on current and future governments to uplift loans so they reflect actual inflation, review parental earnings thresholds, and reintroduce grants for the most disadvantaged students.”

For more information about the current shortfalls in student maintenance loans, and the financial and non-financial support our universities are providing to their students, see our briefing on Cost-of-living support for students.

Notes to editors:

  • In 2024-25 a full-time student living away from home outside London, receiving the maximum loan, will be almost £2000 worse off than if the Government had raised maintenance loans in line with inflation since 2020/21.  
  • The Russell Group recommends that student maintenance loans are increased to reflect actual and historic inflation, and that maintenance grants are reintroduced for the most disadvantaged students.
  • The maintenance loan shortfall is compounded by the freeze on the parental earnings threshold used to calculate maintenance loans in England, which has been frozen in cash terms since 2008. Students are eligible for the maximum level of maintenance support if their parental earnings are below £25,000. Had this threshold increased with earnings, it would now be closer to £35,000. 
  • Last year Russell Group universities spent tens of millions of pounds from existing budgets on financial and non-financial support for students, to assist them with cost-of-living pressures. This provision includes bursaries and hardship funds, food banks and pantries, subsidised meals and travel, and trained money advisors.
  • A 2023 survey of Russell Group students revealed that 1 in 4 were regularly going without food and other necessities due to financial hardship – a figure that rises to more than 3 in 10 for students from the most socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds

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