A cross-party group of MPs and Peers have called on the Government to ‘substantially’ increase student support following their inquiry into the case for compensation for university students throughout the pandemic.
The Inquiry was led by the Chair of the Student All Party Group, Paul Blomfield MP alongside Cambridge MP and Universities Student All Party Group Chair Daniel Zeichner MP.
After examining evidence from across the university sector, and hearing from the NUS, 47 students’ unions including Cambridge University Students Union and ARU and 294 individual students from all over the UK, and private sector landlords, the group recommends that the Government prioritises providing “students with the financial assistance that they need now – through an emergency hardship fund and full compensation for rents in respect of unused accommodation due to lockdown measures, as well as addressing the impact on those facing other financial difficulties”.
The report states:
“We would urge the Government to consult speedily with sector bodies in determining the amount of extra hardship funds but believe that an additional sum more than doubling existing student premium funding, of £256 million, would be required. Applying the Welsh approach would suggest a figure around £700 million for England.”
Current student premium funds were increased by £20 million, available on a one-off basis to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students. However, the Russell Group highlights that, given this fund was cut by £16 million in May 2020, this only represents a £4 million uplift to a budget intended to support disadvantaged students across the sector in ‘normal’ years.
On top of making up for lost income, unusable accommodation and financial hardship, MPs and Peers have called for a ‘Covid Student Learning Remediation Fund’, to allow lost learning to be addressed through provision of educational opportunities not available through the pandemic.
This should be used to fund additional university summer (and potentially autumn/future) programmes to replace lost teaching, networking, fieldtrips, access to essential specialist facilities and more, to allow students to build the skills and portfolios that they may have otherwise missed out on.
Daniel Zeichner MP said:
“We have a group of students who have been so badly affected by the pandemic: with exams cancelled; the chaos of A-level results day by algorithm; remote learning; being sent back home; and isolation. We need to help students right now and into the future. The Government need to be bold to protect students’ education and support their incomes. I call upon the Universities Minister to back these proposals.”