The University has committed additional funding to support students as part of Staffordshire Action on Cost. Most of this funding will be used to provide direct financial support to students in need and will provide subsidised food options at catering outlets; increase the number of paid placement opportunities; and support students who are experiencing digital poverty. In addition, the University has given students extended access to safe and warm study spaces.
Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr Annabel Kiernan said: “It’s important we do everything in our power to support our students through this cost-of-living crisis and that we don’t let financial concerns negatively impact their ability to study and succeed.
“We’ve committed an extra £500,000 to support students as part of Staffordshire Action on Cost. Most of this funding will be used to provide direct financial support to students but is on top of practical support solutions in the form of money management workshops, action on hygiene poverty, free cereal and toast from the Students’ Union, as well as subsidised access to clubs and societies.”
During the last term, Staffordshire University Students’ Union experienced a notable increase in the numbers of students seeking help for financial hardship and increased numbers of students using their FoodHub.
Students’ Union President Hannah Blackburn said: “Money issues experienced by students typically form around 65 per cent of our case work each year. However, these are exceptional times which call for exceptional measures. We have worked closely with the University on a package of support which provides direct support to the most urgent cases and ongoing support for students who can be helped to improve their financial sustainability.”
Free period products have also been made available in Students’ Union venues.
The University’s flagship Catalyst building is now open to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As part of its plans to support students through the cost-of-living crisis, Staffordshire University is also extending its paid work placement scheme, allowing more students the opportunity to access part-time paid work experience and earn while they learn. On an everyday practical level, a scheme to offer washing vouchers as well as subsided oatcakes will be in operation soon.
The University is also continuing to address digital poverty suffered by students – an issue which became more apparent during the pandemic when families were forced to share digital devices such as laptops and access to the internet. Through the Discover Digital project, a Community Renewal Funded project, the University has recently supported 28 students with grants to support their digital access as well as a package of support to enhance their digital and employability skills.
Meanwhile the University is continuing to call on Government to do more to support students. In an open letter to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Jones said: “Contrary to the widespread belief that most university students are 18-year-olds and supported by their parents, many of our students work alongside their study to lessen their financial burden. However, the worry is that they will now have to work additional hours or take on other jobs just to make to make ends meet. This could impact on their ability to complete their course or achieve their true potential.”
The Department for Education announced this week that students in England will receive an increase in maintenance loans of 2.8 per cent and an additional £15m in hardship funding so that universities can provide extra support to students that need it most.
Rachel Hewitt, Chief Executive of MillionPlus – the Association representing Modern Universities including Staffordshire - said: “The Government’s 2.8% uplift in maintenance loans equates to a significant real-terms cut in student support. Universities will continue to support their students through the cost-of-living crisis, but with their budgets also stretched they can only do so much. While the £15m additional hardship funding will help to support this work, more action is needed to support students.”