English universities to get £50m for students in financial distress | Universities

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Universities in England are to be given an extra £50m by the federal government to help students who’re struggling financially on account of the pandemic, in an try to stem rising anger and frustration inside the pupil physique.

The new funding has been made obtainable after a wave of lease strikes and protests by livid students, a lot of whom paid for lodging they may not use after being instructed to research on-line from residence throughout lockdown.

It follows a £20m authorities funding package deal in December and is aimed toward students who’re most in want, significantly those that are struggling to meet extra prices for different lodging and entry to distant instructing through the pandemic.

The new funding was welcomed by the sector, however vice-chancellors, college employees and students mentioned it didn’t go far sufficient, and calls grew for tuition payment refunds and frustration on the limitations of the web college expertise.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students, mentioned: “Many students are currently under extreme financial pressure as a result of the pandemic: they are falling behind on their rent and bills, and needing to access food banks. This will not be enough to tackle the scale of the issue.”

Dr Jo Grady, basic secretary of the University and College Union, added: “Small-scale funding packages like this are simply a sticking plaster and not the answer to the widespread problems facing the sector.”

Quite a few universities and lodging suppliers have already mentioned they won’t cost lease to students who can’t use their college halls. Universities UK, the consultant organisation for the UK’s universities, mentioned the extra £50m was a optimistic step, however referred to as for extra funding for psychological well being help and catch-up programmes for students.

Seven vice-chancellors, in the meantime, have despatched an open letter asking the federal government to grant students a 15-month curiosity waiver on their tuition payment repayments. The letter additionally recommends that the federal government make expertise funding obtainable to present short-term {qualifications} that may enhance unemployed graduates’ job prospects.

The leaders of the universities of East Anglia, Essex, Goldsmiths, Kent, Reading, Royal Holloway and Sussex said: “The pandemic has placed unprecedented pressures on our students. In some of our universities, demands for hardship funds have increased by over 100%. As a result of the pandemic, students also face extraordinary mental health challenges and 18% of students lack access to a computer, laptop or tablet. Additional government support is an urgent priority.”

The universities minister, Michelle Donelan, mentioned: “The additional £50m that we are announcing today will mean we have distributed £70m for hardship in this financial year alone – on top of the £256m of government-funded student premium which universities can use for student support this academic year.”

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