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Students: Housing

Question for Department for Education

UIN 137258, tabled on 13 January 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department plans to provide financial support to university students who have been unable to return to their student accommodation due to the covid-19 lockdown restrictions implemented on 5 January 2021.

Answered on

27 January 2021

Universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and responsible for setting their own rent agreements. The government plays no direct role in the provision of student accommodation.

This has been a very difficult time for students, and we encourage universities and accommodation providers to review their accommodation policies to ensure they are fair, transparent and have the best interests of students at heart.

We recognise that in these exceptional circumstances some students may face financial hardship. The Department for Education has worked with the Office for Students to clarify that providers are able to draw on existing funds, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards hardship support. The government is making available up to a further £20 million on a one-off basis to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students. As my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, said on the 7 January 2021, we are considering what more we can do to provide further support to students.

Maintenance loans are available as a contribution towards a student’s living costs while attending university. The system targets the most living cost support at those from the lowest income families, who need it most.

Students undertaking courses that would normally require attendance on-site, but for which learning has moved either fully or partially online due to the COVID-19 outbreak, will qualify for living costs support in the 2020/21 academic year as they would ordinarily, provided they continue to engage with their higher education provider. This also applies when the student is prevented from attending the course physically and is required to study online due to shielding.

If students have concerns about their accommodation fees, they should first raise their concerns with their accommodation provider. If their concerns remain unresolved, and their higher education provider is involved in the provision of the accommodation, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint.

If a student thinks their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly, they can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice as long as their provider is a code member. The codes can be found at: https://www.thesac.org.uk/, https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain and https://www.rla.org.uk/about/nrla-code-of-practice.shtml.