According to reports, university students in England only have 50 pence per week for living expenses after paying rent.

A recent study has uncovered that university students in England have only 50p per week remaining from their loans for living expenses, due to the rising cost of accommodation by almost 15% in the past two years.

According to a recent report from the student accommodation charity Unipol and the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), rent expenses are now the main factor in depleting maintenance loans, which students use to cover living expenses in addition to tuition fee loans.

According to the authors, the typical yearly cost of student housing in England is currently £7,566, while the expected amount of a maintenance loan is £7,590. This leaves students with a mere £24 per year to cover their living expenses, which amounts to only 50p per week.

For students who qualify for the maximum maintenance loan, typically only those from low-income households, rent takes up a large portion of their budget, at 76%. This is much higher than the recommended limit of 30% for housing expenses. Additionally, many students do not have financial support from their parents.

The study, released on Thursday, examines the rental markets for students in 10 prominent regional cities with universities, excluding London and Edinburgh. It reveals that Bristol has the highest average yearly rent outside of the capital, with a 9% increase in the past two years to £9,200.

Exeter is not far behind at £8,559 (+16%), followed by Glasgow, which has seen the biggest rise in rent over the two-year period, up more than 20% to £7,548. Rents are highest in the cities where there is a shortage of student accommodation.

Rent prices in Nottingham increased by 15%, reaching £8,427. In Leeds, there was also a 15% increase, with rents now at £7,627. Bournemouth saw an 11% increase, bringing rents to £7,396. Among the cities surveyed, Liverpool, Cardiff, and Sheffield had the most affordable rents and smaller annual increases.

Unipol’s assistant chief executive, Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed, stated that students who are struggling financially are resorting to extreme measures such as sharing rooms illegally, taking on more paid work, or even not attending university at all.

Neglecting to solve the issue of student housing could have detrimental effects on the advancements made in promoting diversity in higher education. It may result in the exclusion of students from underprivileged backgrounds, burdening middle-income students with unmanageable debt, and negatively impacting the overall college experience.

Natalia Gromek, a 22-year-old individual who majored in psychology at Bristol University, has recently completed a postgraduate degree. According to Natalia, students from working-class backgrounds are at risk of being unable to afford attending university in certain cities. Despite receiving the highest possible maintenance loan, Natalia did not have parental financial support and faced difficulties due to the high cost of living.

She decided to take up a part-time job in an effort to cover her expenses, but it ended up causing complications.

The individual expressed that while there is nothing inherently wrong with students having part-time jobs, their personal experience of working three full days greatly affected their ability to allocate enough time for studying, resulting in a stressful experience. They also noted that students from working-class backgrounds are not well-represented in Bristol due to the high cost of living without financial assistance from family. They believe that there needs to be a change in order to prevent students in similar situations from being unable to afford attending university in certain cities.

According to Nick Hillman, the director of Hepi, the official maintenance support provided in most of the UK is insufficient to cover the majority of students’ living expenses. In the immediate future, it is necessary to raise maintenance support in line with inflation. In the long term, efforts should be made to promote the availability of new student housing, which is currently hindered by obstacles such as high interest rates and uncertainty surrounding new regulations.

A representative from Universities UK, an organization representing 142 universities, stated that while universities will still offer assistance to students, they require government aid in addressing the issue. The increase of 2.8% in maintenance support for English students is insufficient and will not compensate for the decrease in maintenance funds due to inflation.

In response to the findings of the report, which utilized information from universities and the top 10 providers of purpose-built student housing in 10 different cities, Chloe Field, the vice-president for higher education at the National Union of Students, stated that with an election on the horizon and growing frustration among students for being overlooked, the government must take measures to guarantee that every student has access to affordable housing.

This will result in a substantial increase in the amount of maintenance loans, the implementation of rent controls, and a complete revamp of the student funding system with a return to a grants-based system.

The Department for Education stated that the greatest amount of assistance is aimed towards students from families with the lowest income. However, if students have concerns, they should reach out to their university. The department also mentioned that they are providing £276 million this academic year to support universities in aiding their students. These funds can be used by institutions to supplement their own financial aid programs.


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