Food parcels for students – being considered at Exeter University

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The National Union of Students has expressed concern over a huge increase in student hardship, with over 50 per cent of students working during term time to pay tuition fees, accommodation costs and food bills.

The NUS was responding to a BBC survey of 18 UK universities, out of which eleven reported a big increase in the number of students applying for emergency hardship funds.

The survey found students are struggling to pay fees and bills as part-time work dries up and more parents lose their jobs.

Plymouth University said that requests for financial support are up by 38 per cent and Newcastle University said it has seen a 20 per cent increase.

At Manchester Metropolitan University, student financial support officer Tricia Joyce told the BBC survey: ‘We have got a 25 per cent increase in applications for access to the hardship fund this year.

‘And in the last month we have had an almost 50 per cent increase in inquiries about extra funding.’

The head of student services at the University of Abertay in Dundee, James Nicholson, said the university has run out of funding twice, as more students than ever apply for hardship payments.

He added: ‘Once upon a time it might well have been those from the least well-off backgrounds, but actually it’s becoming more than just those people and that’s what’s so concerning.

‘It’s not just a small group of people – it’s becoming larger.’

Meanwhile, University of Leeds student employment service says it has twice as many people looking for term-time jobs than in previous years, far more than the number of jobs available.

Leeds University Student Union employment manager Gail Hardwick said: ‘Students who may have had jobs in the last calendar year returned in January to find their jobs don’t exist.

‘For some students it’s absolutely critical that they work during term time.

‘It’s the difference between them being able to complete their course or dropping out.’

Other universities reporting increases in emergency hardship fund applications were: Hull, Cardiff, Nottingham, University College London, Exeter, University of Manchester, and Sheffield.

At last Thursday’s NUS lobby of parliament, John Cox, president of Exeter University Students Guild, told News Line: ‘We’ve already seen a massive increase in students visiting the advice unit for aid and financial advice.’

He added that already some students could now receive ‘food parcels’ because they can’t afford their living costs.