Nearly 300,000 students will be badly hit by the cost of living crisis if financial support is not introduced, a new analysis has warned.
A report by MillionPlus, the association of modern universities in the UK, said a student recruitment and retention crisis could be created if the challenges facing students are not addressed.
In its report, Learning with the Lights Out: Students and the Cost of Living Crisis, the organization hailed a range of measures taken by institutions to ease the financial hardship faced by the UK’s poorest students. United.
However, key recommendations have been offered to the UK government, the Office for Students and the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
It recommends immediate increases to student bursaries, hardship funds and better inclusion of students in the broader cost-of-living support measures announced in September.
Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University and Chairman of MillionPlus, said: “Although the cost of living crisis will affect students from all walks of life, it is clear from this analysis that it will have the greatest impact on those students who were already facing significant cost pressures.
“MillionPlus Universities understands these concerns, having been at the forefront of the broadening participation agenda for the past two decades.
“I am proud that this report outlines the innovative and direct actions they are taking to support during this difficult time.
“However, this risk cannot be avoided by universities alone.”
Rachel Hewitt, chief executive of MillionPlus, said the students come from a variety of backgrounds, which impacts the type of support required.
She said: “We need to challenge the narrative that all students are 18 and can count on parental support; increasingly with household budgets being tight this is not a lived reality.
“For mature students, those from low-participation areas, first-class students or commuters, the cost-of-living crisis is in serious danger of forcing them out of higher education and hurting their career prospects. ‘coming.
“Much of the support programs put in place by the UK government so far do not reach or apply to higher education students.
“Maintenance loans are also nowhere near rising in line with inflation, meaning they have now fallen below the national minimum wage.
“If the UK government fails to address the financial challenges ahead for students this academic year, it risks a student recruitment and retention crisis which could have a detrimental long-term impact on its own education and skills agenda. .”
The organizations will host a side event at the SNP conference on Monday, where the Scottish Government’s Higher Education Minister, Jamie Hepburn, will take part in a panel discussion.
Mr Hepburn, Scotland’s Minister for Higher Education, called the report “extremely worrying” which “reinforces the urgent need for the UK Government to properly tackle the cost of living crisis”.
He said: ‘Most of the key policy levers needed to deal with the crisis still rest with the UK Government, so we continue to urge them to use all the levers at their disposal to deal with this emergency on the scale required. to meet people’s needs. ”
Mr Hepburn highlighted the Scottish Government’s payment of £16million in college and university funding for the current academic year to support further and higher education students in financial difficulty, and the payment of nearly £3 billion to help households cope with the rising cost of living.
He added: “And this week the Scottish Parliament voted to pass the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Bill, which gives ministers temporary powers to cap rents for private tenants. and social, as well as student accommodation.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: ‘We understand that global inflationary pressures are squeezing household finances and people are worried about covering the essentials.
“To support students struggling with the cost of living, we have increased maintenance loans each year, which means disadvantaged students now have access to the highest amounts of cash ever.
“Students who are worried about making ends meet should talk to their university about the support they can access.
“This year, universities can boost their hardship funds by tapping up to £261million which we have made available through the Office for Students.”