Universities To Get Extra £50m For Students In Financial Distress Following Protests
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The government has announced that English universities will receive an additional £50m funding to support students who are struggling financially as a result of the pandemic.
The move comes after a wave of protests and rent strikes highlighted the growing anger among students over how they’ve been treated throughout the pandemic.
Many are unhappy after being made to pay for accommodation they were subsequently told they could not use after being told to study online from home during lockdown.
The sum is to be distributed to those students who are most in need, struggling to pay costs for alternative accommodation and struggling to gain access to remote teaching.
Although the money has been welcomed, vice-chancellors, staff and students have said they don’t believe it goes far enough, and have called for tuition fee refunds amid frustrations at the limited nature of online learning.
While some institutions and accommodation providers have said they will not charge rent to students who cannot use their university halls, Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students, pointed out that many are still struggling.
She said: “Many students are currently under extreme financial pressure as a result of the pandemic: they are falling behind on their rent and bills, and needing to access food banks. This will not be enough to tackle the scale of the issue.”
Dr Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, added: “Small-scale funding packages like this are simply a sticking plaster and not the answer to the widespread problems facing the sector.”
Additionally, seven vice-chancellors, have sent an open letter asking the government to grant students a 15-month interest waiver on their tuition fee repayments.
The leaders of the universities of East Anglia, Essex, Goldsmiths, Kent, Reading, Royal Holloway and Sussex said the pandemic has placed ‘unprecedented pressures’ on students.
The letter states: “In some of our universities, demands for hardship funds have increased by over 100%.
“As a result of the pandemic, students also face extraordinary mental health challenges and 18% of students lack access to a computer, laptop or tablet. Additional government support is an urgent priority.”
The universities minister, Michelle Donelan, said: “The additional £50m that we are announcing today will mean we have distributed £70m for hardship in this financial year alone – on top of the £256m of government-funded student premium which universities can use for student support this academic year.”
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