By Sophie Gregory
Correction, Wednesday 4 October: An earlier version of this article included a misquotation of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), Owen Adams, which wrongly included a reference to student repayment terms and misleadingly suggested the University was establishing a Residential Pricing Group because of the costs of providing college residences, rather than – as is correct – in response to student feedback.
Though Palatinate’s print edition, published on the same day, still contains the misquotation, this online article has been updated to rectify the error.
The annual Student Money Survey has found the student loan can leave students up to £221 short every month after polling 2,216 students.
The nationwide survey, run by Save the Student, reports that students need an average of £821 to cover monthly spending, with rent alone averaging £394 nationally. The average Maintenance Loan payment – for students studying away from home and outside London, with a household income of £35,000 – is, however, £600 per month, leaving a shortfall of £221 every month.
The Maintenance Loan is means-tested and parents are expected to subsidise their children. One-third of students, however, believe that their parents do not give adequate financial support or report feeling guilty for asking for help.
Nonetheless, parents are still turned to in times of extreme hardship, with 83% of students relying on their parents for financial support during a crisis.
The Parental Contributions Calculator shows parents earning £35,000 are expected to contribute £1,211 each year for those living outside of London and away from home. For a household income of £50,000, the contribution rises to £3,027.
As Palatinate reported in August, Durham students are ranked among the top universities for parental support, but almost a third of students nationwide assert they do not receive enough financial aid from their parents.
When asked how Durham University is supporting those who may need financial aid, Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), said: “We are focused on providing the very best education and empowering students to succeed.
“We are proud to be investing £11.5 million in outreach, student success, progression and evaluation activities in 2018/19. This includes £5.5 million to help students from lower income backgrounds meet upfront costs such as accommodation and living expenses via bursaries.”
The survey also reveals that 84% of students are worried about having enough money to live on, up 4% from last year.
Rent is reportedly the biggest strain on finances, accounting for almost half of the average £821 a student is said to need per month. Other costs are food at £126 and bills at £54.
Rent and college accommodation fees in Durham have historically been a source of contention.
When asked how the University aims to ensure accommodation remains affordable in Durham, Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), told Palatinate: “The cost of providing our college residences rises year on year and we have to review prices on an annual basis to ensure we can continue to provide a high standard of accommodation and services.
“When reviewing our college residence charges, we consult extensively, including with student representatives. We have listened to our students and understand that they would like to see a range of accommodation packages that go beyond what is currently offered.
“Therefore a Residential Pricing Group has been established to consider various options for the setting of differentiated residence charges from the 2019/20 academic year onwards.”
The survey also investigated how thoroughly students understood their student finance contracts. Half of students spoken to reported that they did not understand their loan agreements or repayment terms.
One second-year student, George Westlake, Collingwood, told Palatinate: “I don’t think there is enough information given to students regarding the ins and outs of interest rates and when they start applying.”
Despite financial uncertainties and the cost of higher education, 49% of students still assert that university is worth the cost.
Durham student Izzy Morrow, also at Collingwood, believes this to be the case, saying: “I think university is worth the money, for me. I love my course and this is the best place to do it, so it’s definitely worth it.
“I do think Durham does offer financial support to those who might be struggling. Different colleges have their own individual schemes and the university as a whole offers money to individuals whose family income is below a certain bracket.”
With fees set to rise, however, the 51% who disagree may also increase.
Concerns extended past university, with over half of students nationwide (51%) reporting that they are not confident that they will be able to find work after graduating.
Save the Student claims that students put forward £6,000 as an ideal amount for their maintenance loan. This figure is currently under the maximum maintenance loan available, suggesting that many feel as though they are being penalised by family incomes.
You can see the full results of the survey here.
Photograph: Amy Ding