Students are facing a cost of learning crisis this year

Students have long faced financial challenges, but the cost-of-living crisis continues to exacerbate this for many. Research found by the Russel Group Students' Union revealed that 94% of students are concerned about the cost of living crisis. 1 in 4 students are regularly going without food or necessities because they cannot afford them.

We are striving to tackle the cost-of-living crisis
We are striving to tackle the cost-of-living crisisUCL students face a challenging academic year due to the rise in the cost-of-living: UCL estimates ess
More than £500k of extra funding to support students in financial need
The Cost of Living crisis will affect everyone, especially students who are already financially stretched. Over the summer we’ve been working to establish new and expanded support for students who may be facing financial hardship over the coming year.

Changes we're working towards...

Many students live on some of the smallest budgets of anyone in our society. NUS research shows that a third of students are left with just £50 a month to live on after paying rent and bills. With a return to full face-to-face learning this year, students are now travelling more frequently to study, adding a huge additional cost to budgets already stretched by private rent increases and food costs.

Policy changes we're working towards this year...

Freezing rent prices
We think students should live in affordable, safe and acceptable conditions: we are backing the Mayor of London's rent freeze campaign; lobbying for a continued freeze of UCL accommodation fees until 2023/24, and for an introduced rent freeze across private halls.

Eating well on a budget
We think students should be able to eat well and inexpensively, so they can focus on their studies: we are pushing for low-cost food options across our outlets; promoting discounts; and redistributing food to students.

Travelling to university economically
We think students should be able to travel to university without worrying about the cost: we are lobbying for discounted tube fares; free bus travel; and more inclusive discounts on Santander cycle hire.

Sadiq Khan's call for London-wide rent freezes on BBC London News

You spoke. We listened.

Our survey highlights the immense financial pressure on students. It is clear that the impact of the cost of living on students is systemic and widespread. Using these findings, we are coordinating an approach for targeted student support from the government and the sector.

Tell your story

Share your story

We want to make sure students' voices are heard, and the experience of students is properly reflected in the national conversation around the cost of living crisis. We’ve heard of students across the UK who can’t afford to travel to university, we know thousands more are relying on foodbanks and buy now, pay later loans from companies like Klarna. Make your voice heard - share your experience. 

“Public transport is far too expensive and yet fares are rising again. Having to travel during peak times to attend my lectures/tutorials in person is highly demotivating due to the cost of transport.”

Current help and support

“There is so much financial stress associated with being a student and moving out for the first time just more general financial support on saving money would be useful.”

Background reading

Cost of Living Crisis: An Overview

In May 2022, inflation in the U.K. hit 9%. It is expected to climb to a peak of 11% in October 2022, the highest rate since 1982. The majority (88%) of adults reported their cost of living has increased over the past month.

Inflation has largely been driven by rises in the cost of energy, food, and fuel. These increases stem from supply chain issues due to the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In April 2022, the energy cap was raised 54% and it is expected to rise another 40% in October 2022, to £2,800 per year. At the supermarket, the average price increase among common food items is nearly 7%. Commuters using their own vehicle have also seen an increase of nearly 43% in fuel costs, with a litre of petrol topping £1.86, the highest price on record.

However, pay rises are not keeping pace with inflation. While wages rose 4% between February and April 2022, when accounting for inflation, real earnings fell by 2%.

Support Available at UCL

UCL offers information for students on funding their studies, including government loans, busaries, and third-party scholarships. The university has a dedicated Student Funding Advisor who offers support, advice and guidance to students who are struggling with money management or experiencing complex funding issues.

UCL also offers a financial assistance fund of up to £3,000 to help support living costs for students who have unexpected financial needs, as well as short term loans of up to £250 for students who have experienced a delay in their normal funding.

Our Advice Service also offers support for students worried about money and debt. For students who want to take part in clubs and societies but are experiencing financial hardship, Our participation fund can help cover membership fees and other associated costs of activities.

Impact on Students

Students have long faced financial challenges, but the cost of living crisis is exacerbating this for many students. Research by the NUS revealed that 75% of students are worried about their finances. Of the students who receive a student loan or bursary, 51% do not believe it covers their costs of living.

UCL estimates essential living costs to be between £261 to £327 per week, not including tuition, depending on level of study and accommodation type However, a quarter of students (25%) report having just under £12 per week to live off. As a result, many report being unable to afford basic items including textbooks (23%) and food, with half (49%) reporting skipping a meal and 5% reporting using a food bank.

Student accommodation costs have also risen 16% in the last three years. In London, the average rent would consume 88% of a full student maintenance loan, leaving just £38 per week to cover other expenses. However, 51% of UCL students surveyed (the vast majority of whom live in university halls) agreed that their accommodation represents good value for money, while 28% disagreed.

A 2021 survey found from Save the Student that the primary funding sources for students are their parents (66% of respondents), part-time jobs (66%), maintenance loans (65%), savings (50%), and grants (38%). 32% of students rely on their overdraft and 16% rely on credit cards, while 17% of students have borrowed/received money from friends.

Support from the U.K. Government

So far, the U.K. government has allocated £37 billion of support for the cost of living crisis, however none of these measures are specifically targeted towards students. The NUS is currently running a campaign on the cost of living crisis, calling on the U.K. government to develop a tailored support package for students.

While students in England remain eligible for student loans to cover tuition fees and maintenance loans to help with costs of living, in real terms the amount available is the lowest level since 2015, since the annual loan increases have not kept up pace with inflation. The loan increase for the upcoming academic year is 2.3%, while inflation is expected to reach 11%.

One study estimates that students will lose the equivalent of £100 per month in the upcoming academic year due to the high levels of inflation, which were not accounted for in the loan increase. Additionally, for the first time in nearly 20 years, the maximum maintenance loan entitlement will also fall more than £1,000 short of what a 22-year-old student would earn if they worked in a job that paid the National Minimum Wage instead of studying.