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One in five students considers quitting over rising costs

Image: Grace Gay for Research Profesional News

Office for Students survey suggests cost of living crisis is hitting postgraduates particularly hard

One in five students has considered dropping out of university or college because of increases in the cost of living, a report by the Office for Students has found.

As part of a wider briefing on the cost of living crisis, the OfS commissioned polling company Savanta to survey more than 4,000 students. It found that postgraduates and disabled students were particularly likely to be unsure about whether they could afford to continue their course, while more than 40 per cent of respondents said they had cut back on spending on food shopping over the previous six months.

More than half said they had received support from their university or college to help with cost of living rises—but nearly a fifth said they were not aware of any such support being available from their institution. The proportion increased to more than a quarter among those from minority ethnic backgrounds.

John Blake, director for fair access and participation at the OfS, said the report showed how students were “feeling the financial pinch”.

“Findings from our poll supports data from the growing evidence base in the sector, which paints a worrying picture of the extent to which increasing food, travel and accommodation costs are leading to difficult decisions for many students,” he said.

“Universities and colleges need to ensure progress made towards equality of opportunity is not knocked off course, and that they continue to provide, and make students aware of, support.”

In response to the survey, a spokesperson for vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK said universities had stepped up to offer support.

“The rising costs of utility bills, rent and food are just some of the financial pressures facing students, as well as an insufficient maintenance package for those in England,” said the spokesperson. 

“With inflation still high, it’s imperative that the maintenance support package is reviewed, as the recently announced maintenance uplift for next year will not cover the real-terms cut that students are seeing.”

Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, said extra government support was urgently needed. 

“The lack of any specific measures in the budget to support students was a missed opportunity and we continue to urge the government to consider low-cost options that would give students an immediate financial boost, such as uplifting maintenance loans in line with inflation,” he said.