To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of Government financial support available for university students.
26 April 2021
We understand that this is a very difficult and uncertain time for students. We are working with universities, higher education (HE) institutions, mission groups, unions and professional sector bodies to make sure that all reasonable efforts are being made to enable all students to continue their studies and to provide the support required for them to do so.
In these exceptional circumstances, we recognise that some students may face financial hardship. On 13 April, we announced that we are making a further £15 million of additional student hardship funding available for the 2020/21 academic year. In total, we have made an additional £85 million of funding available for student hardship since December. HE providers have flexibility in how they distribute the funding to students in a way that best prioritises those in greatest need.
To support with this further, we have worked closely with the Office for Students to help clarify that HE providers can draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged and vulnerable students impacted by COVID-19. HE providers are able to use the funding, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment
We want to make sure all students receive the right amount of student support to complete their studies. Students who received a loan for living costs at the living away from home rates in the spring term have received a loan at the same rate in the summer term, even though they may be staying at their family home to comply with public health guidance. This change to the funding rules will help cover any accommodation costs students may still be incurring at their term time address in the summer term. The maximum loans for living costs for the 2020/21 academic year have been increased by 2.9%, with a further 3.1% increase for the 2021/22 academic year, to record levels in cash terms.
Students who have applied for a loan for living costs for the current 2020/21 academic year have been awarded a lower amount than the maximum and believe their household income for the 2020-21 tax year will drop by at least 15% compared to the household income they provided when they were initially assessed, can apply for their entitlement to be reassessed.
In addition, students undertaking courses that would normally require attendance on-site, but for which learning has moved either fully or partially online due to COVID-19, will qualify for living cost support in the 2020/21 academic year as they would ordinarily, provided they continue to engage with their HE provider. This also applies when the student is prevented from attending the course physically and is required to study online due to shielding.
The current measures aim to target support for students in greatest need, and we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust sector guidance and support where necessary.