Russell Group urges Government not to forget students in cost-of-living support

20 September 2022

Ahead of an expected emergency mini-budget later this week, the Russell Group has set out the benefits of discovery research, innovation and talent development to the economy and urged Government to maintain investment in them to deliver growth and prosperity for the UK.

It has also urged the Government not to forget students as it considers how best to support those struggling with cost-of-living and proposed short and long-term steps that could be taken to help.

Earlier this month (6 September 2022), following the confirmation of the new UK Government, Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, wrote to the Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng extending his congratulations as they take on their new offices.

The letter, which can be read in full below, sets out where Russell Group universities can help deliver positive outcomes for the whole of the UK and support the new Government’s pro-growth economic approach. It also urges the Government to continue to prioritise securing association to the Horizon Europe, EURATOM and Copernicus programmes, which remains the best outcome for UK research.

Today (20 September 2022), Dr Bradshaw also called on Government to ensure students were not forgotten as it considers how best to support those struggling with cost-of-living pressures. As of summer 2022, the Russell Group estimates students have not qualified for at least £550 of Government support accessible to other groups, and some may have missed out on much more.

UKRI has recently confirmed a further 10% (£2k) uplift to its minimum 2022-23 postgraduate research stipends due to increasing costs. Universities are also taking a range of steps to support students, but more help is needed. Without it there is a risk an increasing number of students will struggle to complete their studies, which could impact the pipeline of skilled workers needed by employers.  

The Russell Group has suggested a range of options that could provide a mix of immediate and long-term support. Its proposals are: 

  • Extend Government hardship funding. Students are not eligible for most Government cost-of-living interventions to date. Further Government hardship funding could help universities provide invaluable targeted support to those most in need. 
  • As an immediate step, uplift maintenance loans in line with current inflation. Despite near double-digit inflation, the loan students can access to support living costs has only risen by 2.3% for 2022/23, leaving them with around £2k less funding to access vs current inflation forecasts. Parental income thresholds used to calculate maximum loan amounts have also remained static since 2008. These changes could be made swiftly to provide immediate support as well as improving the system to better support students in the long term. 
  • Consider the reintroduction of maintenance grants for students who need them most. We continue to support the restoration of means-tested maintenance grants.  

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

"As the Government sets out its emergency budget to help those who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, it’s vital that students are not left out of the conversation. 

"Our members are reporting growing numbers approaching them with financial concerns. While universities are stepping up support ahead of the start of the new term, including boosting financial aid, there is an urgent need for more assistance. 

"We hope the Government will take this opportunity to look at what more they can do to help students at this challenging time, such as extending additional hardship funding to support those most in need."

Letter to Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer

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