Today the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students, which I chair, has published its recommendations for the Government to ‘substantially’ increase student support following our inquiry into the case for compensation for university students for impact of the pandemic.
After examining evidence from across the university sector, NUS, 47 students’ unions, individual students, and private landlords, and meeting with representatives of all groups, we recommend that the Government provides “students with the financial assistance that they need now – through an emergency hardship fund and full compensation for rents in respect of unused accommodation due to lockdown measures, as well as addressing the impact on those facing other financial difficulties”.
Our report adds that:
“We would urge the Government to consult speedily with sector bodies in determining the amount of extra hardship funds but believe that an additional sum more than doubling existing student premium funding, of £256 million, would be required. Applying the Welsh approach would suggest a figure around £700 million for England.”
The Government increased current student premium funds for hardship by £20 million, available on a one-off basis to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students. However, this fund was cut by £16 million in May 2020, so this only represents a £4 million uplift to a budget intended to support disadvantaged students across the sector in ‘normal’ years.
On top of this extra hardship funding to compensate students for lost income from jobs, for unusable accommodation and for other financial hardship, we have called for a ‘Covid Student Learning Remediation Fund’, to allow lost learning to be addressed through provision of educational opportunities not available through the pandemic.
This should be used to fund additional university summer (and potentially autumn/future) programmes to replace lost teaching, networking, fieldtrips, access to essential specialist facilities and more, to allow students to build the skills and portfolios that they may have otherwise missed out on.
The full report is available here.
This generation of university students will be those most affected by the pandemic over their lives and they’ll do more to pay off the national debt than those at work currently. We must hear their calls for support and act to help them now.
After examining the huge amount of evidence that we received, we’ve agreed across parties on a bold call for the Government to protect students’ education and support their incomes. The pandemic has inflicted huge costs on all of us, and students cannot be neglected.
It’s a call for major action by the Government, but it’s essential to protect future generations and our universities so I hope the Universities Minister will back these proposals.