Grad crisis? | Talent pool in limbo as cost-of-living puts elite students on brink of dropping out

Talent pool in limbo as cost-of-living puts elite students on brink of dropping out

New research from the Russell Group Students’ Unions – an institution which represents some of the UK’s elite universities – has revealed the negative pressures of the cost-of-living crisis on students at some of the UK’s best universities.

The study, which is the most extensive of its kind, shows that one-in-five students are considering dropping out of education because of economic pressures, as students live on average just £2 over the poverty line.

More than half of the study’s participants said their academic performance had suffered because of the cost-of-living crisis.

While it was also revealed that students are regularly skipping meals and going without essentials, taking on additional paid work, and missing lectures because of not being able to afford travel expenses.

As a result, the Russell Group Students’ Union is calling on the Chancellor to bolster support for students amid his upcoming budget.


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The group is calling for increased student maintenance loans in line with inflation, reintroduction of maintenance grants for the most disadvantaged students, and to review the parental threshold for maximum loan support, which has been frozen since 2008.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive at the Russell Group, has condemned the research findings and says the pressures on students are only set to get worse. He commented: “As well as affecting their day-to-day finances, rising costs are having knock on effects on students’ wellbeing and their studies, with a worrying number considering dropping out of their courses.

“Unfortunately, we know the pressure on students will only increase next year as rates of inflation and food inflation in particular remain high, while maintenance loans in England will rise by just 2.8%.”

The research findings indicate that economic strain is felt most heavily by those from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds, which raises concerns about higher education becoming a space only for ‘privileged’ young people.

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“Students have been forgotten in the cost-of-living crisis,” said Charlie Sellar, an Elected Student Officer from Russell Group Students’ Unions. He continued: “Without intervention, our higher education sector risks pricing out disadvantaged students entirely; many students will be at risk of dropping out, and it is a real concern that prospective students will be watching our students being left behind by the government in vulnerable positions with limited access to support and decide that university is not for them.”

Jeremy Hunt is set to reveal his newest budget on Wednesday, which is likely to include a plan of economic support for those most in need.



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