Universities on Wednesday criticised the size of a authorities improve in help for scholar residing prices in England, calling it “disappointing” because it didn’t maintain tempo with inflation.
The Division for Training introduced that upkeep loans — the principle supply of presidency help for undergraduates and postgraduates — would in 2023-24 improve by 2.8 per cent. It additionally mentioned it will present an extra £15mn to “ease value of residing pressures” for college students.
However consultants mentioned the rise in upkeep mortgage funding didn’t go far sufficient in opposition to the backdrop of excessive inflation, and would add to the difficulties of scholars already squeezed by the price of residing disaster.
Following the two.8 per cent uplift, undergraduates residing exterior London will obtain a most upkeep mortgage of £9,978 subsequent tutorial yr — for these within the capital, that rises to £13,022.
They may even profit from new hardship help cash, along with £261mn already introduced by the federal government. Tuition charges will stay frozen at £9,250 for the subsequent two years, which was beforehand introduced final spring.
Nevertheless, with the value of products rising quick, the upkeep mortgage improve quantities to a real-terms minimize. In November, inflation stood at 10.7 per cent after slipping again from the 41-year excessive seen in October.
The Russell Group of research-intensive universities mentioned that if upkeep mortgage funding had elevated with inflation since 2020-21, then subsequent yr’s annual allowance could be £11,500.
Tim Bradshaw, chief govt of the Russell Group, mentioned it was “disappointing” that the federal government had didn’t “handle a few of the flaws within the forecasting course of to make sure they sustain with rising prices”.
Tom Allingham, cash professional at recommendation web site Save the Scholar, mentioned the rise was a “devastating blow to struggling college students” that might intensify their “battle” with residing prices.
Upkeep loans are linked to inflation and partly means-tested, with these claiming the complete allowance required to declare their family earnings.
Nevertheless, the rise in mortgage help is calculated based mostly on projections by the Workplace for Finances Duty, a public physique monitoring authorities funds. For the previous two years, inflation has outstripped the OBR’s projections and the rise in upkeep loans.
The Financial institution of England estimates that inflation will stand between 5.2 and 5.9 per cent in September, when college students will obtain their loans.
Ben Waltmann, an economist on the Institute for Fiscal Research think-tank, mentioned the announcement meant that real-terms cuts to scholar hardship help since 2020-21 would change into “baked-in”.
Although it welcomed the £15mn increase, the Nationwide Union of College students mentioned the upkeep mortgage improve was “woefully insufficient”.
“If upkeep help continues to lag behind inflation, the variety of college students in poverty is just going to extend,” Chloe Subject, NUS vice-president, mentioned.
Robert Halfon, minister for larger schooling, mentioned the federal government recognised “college students proceed to face monetary challenges”.
“I urge anybody who’s fearful about their circumstances to talk to their college,” he mentioned.