Russell Group universities step up support for students in response to cost-of-living crisis

09 November 2022

Russell Group universities have committed tens of millions of pounds of additional hardship funding, bursaries, and other financial assistance to help students through the cost-of-living crisis and ensure they can continue in their courses.

Today (9 November 2022), all Russell Group universities have also confirmed they would match the UKRI uplift to its minimum 2022-23 postgraduate research stipends, which represents a further multimillion pound commitment, to help PhD students deal with rising costs.

As well as significantly increasing student financial support (see Annex below), Russell Group universities are taking a range of other measures to help students with day-to-day living costs reflecting local circumstances, including providing subsidised food, extending access to campus facilities, and looking for ways to extend campus employment opportunities. For example:

  • Many universities are keeping study and social spaces open longer for students to keep warm if they are struggling to heat their homes, offering facilities such as free hot showers, free tea and coffee, access to microwaves and subsidised lunches and hot meals on campus, as well as using bulk-buying power to sell food staples at significantly discounted prices.
  • Other measures include reviewing and reducing any ‘hidden’ course or service costs, providing free access to non-perishable goods, reducing costs for activities or sports and transport discounts.
  • Helping students with managing finances, including providing guidance on keeping costs down, information on available financial assistance and access to trained money advisors.
  • Universities are also extending on-campus job roles and promotion of other employment opportunities near campus where it's possible for a student to balance limited employment alongside their studies.

While universities are doing what they can, more help is needed as cost-of-living pressures continue to increase. The  Russell Group is calling for the Government to extend its own hardship funding, which could help universities provide invaluable targeted assistance to those most in need. In addition, as an immediate step the Government could uplift maintenance loans in line with current inflation to provide swift support to students, and in the longer term consider the reintroduction of maintenance grants.

Commenting, Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:

“Our members are concerned about growing financial pressures on students, and the impact this will have on their studies and wider mental health and wellbeing. Universities are stepping up support where possible, committing millions of pounds of additional financial assistance, as well as exploring a wide range of other measures to ease the burden on students.

“However, additional assistance is urgently needed. Before problems escalate over the winter, we hope the Government will extend its own support for students, including through additional hardship funding.”

Annex: Additional financial support for students announced by Russell Group universities

Some examples of increased financial assistance for students at Russell Group universities so far announced can be found below. The nature of support reflects local contexts, including the size of the student body, and further announcements by universities are expected in the coming weeks.

As well as boosting hardship funds, many universities are looking to increase the amount of support provided to students from low-income families or those eligible for bursaries, and to widen student eligibility for support.

  • The University of Birmingham has allocated more than £10 million to support students in the current academic year. Students in need of additional financial assistance can apply for the University’s Student Support Fund, and the Guild of Students’ Hardship Fund. It also continues to provide financial support awards to students from low-income backgrounds and those with particular support needs.
  • The University of Bristol has increased the amount available in its Financial Assistance Fund from £600,000 to £1million.
  • The University of Cambridge has increased funding to the University’s Student Hardship Fund by 50%.
  • Cardiff University has increased the budget for its Financial Assistance Programme to £1m for those who need help covering their essential living or study costs, and extended additional support to postgraduate student care leavers, young carers, estranged students and those students who served in the military. It has removed late return fines in its libraries and given every student on a bursary a £10 printer credit.
  • As well as significantly increasing its Student Support Fund for the academic year 2022/23, Durham University has increased the Durham Grant scheme by 10%, offering grants to students with a household income of up to £47,200, including £2200 for those with a household income of less than £27,500.
  • The University of Edinburgh has increased funding to the University’s Student Hardship Fund by 50%. They have a dedicated website and a video in collaboration with University of Edinburgh Students’ Association encouraging students who are facing financial difficulty to reach out for help.
  • The University of Exeter has set aside an additional £1.25m in hardship funds and also increased its stipend for UKRI and university funded PGR students in the sum of £1.2m. The University has committed further investment through a winter support bursary payment to low-income students and in initiatives to provide low cost food and warm spaces on its campuses.
  • The University of Glasgow has more than doubled its student hardship support, increasing our contribution by over £1 million. This is alongside providing a range of practical services and advice, including accessible, warm spaces on-campus, low-cost hot food and wellbeing support.
  • Imperial College London has more than doubled its Student Support Fund, by £500,000, and increased the maximum grant from the fund by £1,000 to £5,000 per academic year.
  • King’s College London has announced a £3m cost of living package, including a one-off additional payment of £150 to all students in receipt of a King’s living bursary, representing £1million of additional support, as well as £750k of additional hardship funding, £750k to support subsidised food and drink and a further £500k held as contingency.
  • The University of Leeds has increased its student Financial Assistance Fund almost five-fold to £1.9m, with £500,000 ring-fenced to support PGRs. A total of £320,000 has also been allocated to boost existing student support schemes, including support for care leavers and estranged students, the Leeds Masters Scholarships and testing for the Disabled Students’ Allowance, with free period product provision extended across more locations on campus.
  • The University of Liverpool is tripling the University Hardship Fund to £1.5 million from £500,000, which provides grants to those experiencing financial difficulties. The Liverpool Guild of Students also offers a short-term (4 week) emergency loan service for students in immediate hardship which can be used for food and other essential items.
  • LSE has doubled its hardship funding and also increased LSE PhD Studentship stipends by 10% to match the increased value of UKRI stipends. They have frozen residential costs, are providing more low-cost meal options and are in discussions with the SU about further assistance, including no-cost/low-cost options for activities on campus. This is alongside existing bursaries and scholarships (£22.0m+ in 2022-23) to support those most in need, in recognition of the high cost of living in London.
  • In recognition of the significant challenges faced by students over rising costs, the University of Manchester is dedicating £9million to providing further student support, building on an initial programme of wellbeing and financial assistance provided together with the Students’ Union. Registered students will each receive a one-off cost of living payment. Full-time students will receive £170 and part-time students will receive £85, paid into their UK bank account.
  • Newcastle University has increased the package of support available to students at all stages to more than £1.7 million which includes an increase in student financial support, participation bursaries through the Students’ Union and additional jobs for students through Jobs on Campus.
  • The University of Nottingham has increased its Student Hardship Fund by 50% to £750,000 to provide grants and interest free loans to any student who is experiencing financial difficulties, as well as access to free kitchens, shower facilities, heated study spaces and period products.
  • Meanwhile, at the University of Oxford, Oxford Bursaries and Crankstart Bursaries have been immediately increased by up to £500 for all on-course students eligible for bursary support, to help with the rising cost of living.
  • Queen Mary University of London has a bursary scheme which is automatically provided to any domestic undergraduate from a family whose annual taxable income is below £20,000. Currently, 35% of its home undergraduate population are in receipt of a bursary under this scheme. Any student facing financial hardship can apply to its Financial Assistance Fund.
  • At Queens University Belfast, a total of 3,600 students who come from families earning under £25,000 per year will receive a one-off payment of £400 each with all other students receiving a one-off payment of £150. The university will also allocate £600,000 into a student support fund focused on international students as part of a £5.7m investment from the university.
  • The University of Sheffield is committing up to £3 million to support students facing financial difficulties due to the rising cost of living. All eligible students can apply for financial support to help cover unpaid placement costs, employability-related costs like new interview clothes, graduation costs, IT equipment, living costs, energy costs and house hunting costs for students with dependents.
  • The University of Southampton has committed an additional £550,000 for Financial Support lifting the total to £1.1 million in the 2022/23 academic year to cover emergency costs, additional funding for equipment as well as health and wellbeing costs. In addition, they are working with their Students' Union to support a new food bank on campus, offering free or subsidised food each day and keeping a greater number of campus buildings open later each evening.
  • UCL has committed over £2.3m of additional funding for its student support package, which includes bursaries, increased doctoral stipends, emergency loans and grants and mental health support. We have and our student support budget this year is greater than in any previous year.
  • The University of Warwick has allocated £3.5m to help students from low-income families from December 2022, with additional funds paid through the existing bursary schemes targeted at those on the lower income. It is also opening the doors to its world class arts centre to the local community which will act as a community warm bank, with a programme of free activities planned over the winter.
  • The University of York announced that £150 would be given to student households who are finding it difficult to pay their bills as part of a £6 million package to support students most in need. The Household Energy Grant will be given to 2,000 houses.
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