Second update - response from the minister for the School System and Student Finance
Your Union and University Representing Your Interests Nationally
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have seen recent letters sent to the government by your Officer Team and by our Vice Chancellor, Martin Jones.
Times are tough for so many of us at the moment, and heading into winter with Christmas round the corner, energy bills increasing and potential interest rate increases in the new year, it is a challenging time for many of our students – and that's why in a recent wave of action, your academic interests as a Staffs student are being put front and centre.
The NUS is currently working hard on their Cost of Living work, including lobbying the Chancellor to increase the support available for students up and down the country. The same sentiments have been echoed in recent letters to The Prime Minister from our VC Martin Jones and in a letter from Your Officer team to Jo Gideon, the MP for Stoke Central, where its largest teaching site is based.
As well as broader support for our regions economically, the consistent message from everyone is that our government needs to do more for our students:
an immediate increase in maintenance funding for students
an immediate increase in hardship funds that can be targeted to students most in need
better inclusion of students in wider cost-of-living programmes
There's more work to do on the challenges our students face, but we're here for you. If you do need any help with the challenges faced at the moment, please keep an eye out for our Cost of Living web pages or book an appointment with our free and independent advice team.
Jo Gideon has responded with the following email:
Thank you for contacting me about these important issues.
I have written to the Minister on your behalf to raise your concerns and I will be in touch as soon as I have received a response.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. If you require any further assistance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Jo Gideon MP
Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central
House of Commons
London SW1A OAA
Here is the response from the minister:
Jo Gideon MP By email: email@example.com Your ref: JG12640 20 December 2022
Thank you for your email of 16 December, enclosing correspondence from your constituent, Mr Len Stuart, about the increasing cost of living for university students and the financial support available to them. I am replying as the minister responsible for this policy area. I understand the concerns that Mr Stuart raises. The government recognises the additional cost of living pressures that have arisen this year which have affected students. However, decisions on student finance will have to be taken alongside other spending priorities to ensure the system remains financially sustainable and the costs of higher education (HE) are shared fairly between students and taxpayers, not all of whom have benefited from going to university. We have continued to increase living costs support each year with a 2.3% increase to maximum loans and grants for living and other costs for this academic year, 2022/23. Students who have been awarded a loan for living costs for the 2022/23 academic year that is lower than the maximum, and whose household income for the tax year 2022-23 has dropped by at least 15% compared to the income provided for their original assessment, can apply for their entitlement to be reassessed. In addition, maximum tuition fees, and the subsidised loans available from the government to pay them, remain at £9,250 for the 2022/23 academic year in respect of standard full-time courses. We are also freezing maximum tuition fees for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 academic years. By 2024/25, maximum fees will have been frozen for seven years. As well as reducing debt levels for students, the continued fee freeze will help to ensure that our HE system remains sustainable while also promoting greater efficiency amongst providers. To support those who need additional help, we confirmed in our 2022-23 funding guidance to the Office for Students (OfS) that universities will continue to be able to support students in hardship through their own hardship funds and the student premium, for which up to £261 million is available. English providers can draw upon this funding now to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students affected by cost-of-living pressures. We would encourage any student experiencing financial hardship to contact the student support services teams at their chosen provider to discuss the additional support that may be available. We also recognise that many households will need support to deal with rising energy costs, which are being affected by global factors, and have therefore announced a package of support to help households with rising energy bills, worth £15 billion in financial year 2022-23. In addition, all households will save on their energy bills through the Energy Price Guarantee and the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme discount. Students who buy their energy from a domestic supplier are eligible for the energy bills discount. The Energy Prices Bill introduced on 12 October includes the provision to require landlords to pass benefits they receive from energy price support, as appropriate, onto end users. Further details of the requirements under this act are set out in the legislation. Turning to student accommodation, I should clarify that the government plays no role in the provision of student residential accommodation. Universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own rent agreements. However, we encourage universities and private landlords to review their accommodation policies to ensure they are fair, clear, and have the interests of students at heart. If a student thinks their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly, they can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice if the provider is a code member. The codes are available at: tinyurl.com/24TB9VRM, tinyurl.com/25X6RVU5 and tinyurl.com/BDD8R8ZN. Thank you for writing on this important matter.
Minister for the School System and Student Finance