Last week I sent the Government the recommendations from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Students following our inquiry into student support as a result of the pandemic. Yesterday the Government published their response. Today I secured an Urgent Question in Parliament to press Universities Minister Michelle Donelan on how the proposals fall short on hardship, rent refunds and lost learning.
In my questions to the Minister I highlighted the many ways students have been impacted, including loss of part–time work on which so many rely, as maintenance loans don’t even cover rent for many students. The new hardship fund that has been announced equates to £26 per student in England, compared with £300 in Wales and £80 in Scotland – which isn’t good enough.
Our APPG report recommended that student premium funding is at least doubled, to more than £250 million to cover lost income and all the other financial challenges students have had to face. I urged the Minister to ensure fairness between students living in university-owned halls and those in the private rented sector, by doing more than just encourage accommodation providers to do better.
Calls for tuition fee refunds miss the point of addressing learning loss. So I asked the Minister to press the Chancellor to fund a ‘Learning Remediation Fund’ which would enable universities to make up for missed educational experience. I also urged her to join our APPG in asking UKRI to extend studentships, and to provide support for postgraduate students whose research had been interrupted by the pandemic.
Students’ education has been disrupted, they will be entering an even more challenging job market than usual, and they will be paying off the cost of the pandemic throughout their lives. The Government must step in and provide the help they need now.
Watch my speech below.