Rise in financial hardship for Hull University students

Rise in financial hardship for Hull University students

BBC |May 31, 2012

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The number of Hull University students facing financial hardship increased by 54% over the past four years, its union said.

The student union said 2,300 students had contacted its advisors for support last year compared to 1,500 in 2008.

About 22,000 students study at the university. Four years ago, there were 21,000.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) said“generous packages of financial support” were available.

Gina Rayment, from Hull University’s student union, said:“They’re coming to us with quite serious problems such as possible rent arrears where they could actually lose a roof over their heads.”

Food parcels“It isn’t just that they need some money for a Friday night, it’s actually that they need money for food, they need money to pay their bills and they need money for rent.”

The union said there were a number of reasons why students were facing hardship including mismanagement of money or loss of parental incomes.

“One of the main reasons here in Hull is that there are no part-time jobs that students used to rely on to get themselves through university,” said Ms Rayment.

The rise in financial hardship has also led to an increase in the number of food parcels it provides to students.

Last year the union distributed 70 food parcels to students compared to 30 in 2008, the union said.

A spokesperson from BIS said: “There is a generous package of financial support to help with living costs in the form of loans and non-repayable grants.

“Our reforms will offer more financial support and lower monthly repayments once you are in well paid work.”

Higher university fees ‘will add £100bn to public debt’

Higher university fees ‘will add £100bn to public debt’

BBC |May 18, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter
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Plans to allow universities to charge up to £9,000 tuition fees could push public sector debt up by up to £100bn over the next 20 years, a report says.

Students at England’s universities will be able to take out government-backed loans covering the higher fees, as teaching grants are slashed from 2012.

The government insists its plans are sustainable, and predicts student loan debt will peak at £50bn in 2030.

But a study warns it could be double that.

The report by Andrew McGettigan, for the Intergenerational Foundation, analyses the impact of lending students fees to pay their loans, and allowing them to pay back once they start earning£21,000 a year.

‘National debt’

It says: “Replacing direct grants to universities with higher fees backed by higher loans reduces the relevant government department’s contribution to the deficit.

“But the cost of government borrowing adds significantly to the national debt in the short and medium term.”

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the loans will cost £12bn a year by 2015-16.

This is an increase of £5 to 6bn a year and “eclipses” the£3bn savings achieved through the cuts announced to the teaching grant, the report says.

This means the policy of higher student loans costs as much as twice as much a year as the annual savings from cutting teaching grants.

The debt will only be repaid when enough graduates are repaying their loans. This is predicted to be in about 2032 by the OBR or eight years later in 2040 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

‘No protection’

And there are already concerns about the assumptions made about how many graduates will earn enough to pay back their student debts of between £30,000 and £40,000.

The government is predicting that it will get back about 70% of the money it lends out.

But the report says: “Given the amounts, the complexities of the scheme and the long lifetimes of the loans, predicting patterns and levels of repayment is extremely difficult.”

This is something acknowledged by the government as it relies on a great number of assumptions about future events, economic growth and student behaviour.

And the report points out that if repayments are not made as expected, future governments could change the terms and conditions on the loans to balance the books.

It adds that those who will have already taken out loans “have no protection” against any changes to the terms of their loans.

And it adds that future student groups will have loans offered on much less generous terms.

It also claims the government is “secretly investigating” the possibility of selling off student loan liabilities and that under present legislation this can be done without carrying out a consultation.

The author also points out that as tuition fees are included in the basket of goods used to determine the Consumer Price Index raising them to a maximum of £9,000 will have an inflationary effect.

This alone could add £2.2bn to the social security budget by 2016, because payments are linked to inflation, at a time when the Chancellor has asked for £10bn savings from this area.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said:“Our reforms put students at the heart of the system and university funding on to a sustainable footing.

“While the total cash expenditure on higher education will increase due to the extra lending to students, we also expect to receive higher repayments from them as graduates.

“The net impact is that the reforms help to reduce the deficit. Our modelling of student loan repayments is scrutinised by the independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility.”

But general secretary of the UCU lecturers’ union Sally Hunt said the report confirmed that the government’s punitive budget cuts have absolutely nothing to do with reducing the national debt and everything to do with shifting the funding of higher education from the state to the individual.

“Instead of being guided by ideology and adding billions to the national debt ministers should follow the example of other countries and invest in higher education.”

Budget: £100m University Research Pledge For UK

Budget: £100m university research pledge for UK

BBC |March 21, 2012

By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a £100m fund to boost university research in the UK through private sector involvement.

The government was committing the cash for “investment in major new university research facilities”, he said in his Budget speech.

Few details have been released, but the funding is intended to attract outside investment for universities.

Universities and campaign groups say it will help offset cuts to the sector.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills said the funds would go to “large capital projects” which bring in “significant private investment”, for example joint research facilities.

A spokeswoman said details would be announced soon.

‘Step in right direction’Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Industry and universities have a vital role to play in collaborating to achieve sustained growth in our economy.

“We know from experience that targeted funding can be successful in attracting significant business investment to our university research base. As part of our drive in bringing together the business, charity and university sectors, this new £100m investment could bring in upwards of £200m additional private funding to help stimulate innovation and secure our high-tech future.”

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said the investment was helpful – but not enough.

“These things are very welcome but on their own they are only green shoots,” he said.

“In the UK, the government and industry still invest a smaller percentage of our Gross Domestic Product in research and development than our competitor economies and while that remains the case we will not fulfil the Chancellor’s goal of making the UK into Europe’s technology centre.”

Imran Khan, the director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said: “Today’s announcement is the latest in a string of pledges of extra cash for science and engineering, and shows that the government does understand that we cannot have a rebalanced economy without investment in research.

“I suspect the government realises that the multi-billion pound, 50% cut made to research capital in 2010 simply isn’t sustainable. Despite difficult times they are trying to put it right.

“However, simply reversing cuts isn’t going to be a game-changer for the UK. We need to be far more ambitious if we’re serious about having a high-tech future.”

‘Right direction’ In autumn 2010, the chancellor said he was freezing the annual science budget for four years at £4.6bn per year, although when inflation was taken in to account, this amounted to a 10% cut in real terms.

Later, a 40% cut to the sector’s capital expenditure was announced – money spent on building, maintenance or equipment.

The director general of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, Wendy Piatt, said: “The research which takes place in our world-class universities drives long-term and sustainable economic growth. But the first-rate infrastructure needed to facilitate the very best research and teaching cannot be bought on the cheap.

“Today’s Budget announcement … is a step in the right direction, especially following recent cuts to capital spending.

“Let’s not forget that our competitors are injecting vast amounts of cash into their universities, and our leading universities are already under-resourced in comparison with our international competitors.”

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