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Poorer students forced to live at home

A major NUS study published last week has identified students from low-income households as those more likely to study from home. The study, funded and conducted in association with HSBC, quizzed 3,135 undergraduates at 146 universities and colleges about their experiences and expectations of the UK system; covering everything from choosing a course and university to accommodation, welfare services, student employment and bullying.

As the report was unveiled at the NUS Annual Reception in the House of Commons, NUS President Wes Streeting said: “This report gives us an unprecedented insight into the experiences and concerns of students. We look forward to working with tutors, institutions and the government to address the issues raised by students through this survey.”

On the question of which university or course undergraduates had applied to, 31% of students stated that they had chosen their university because it was close to home. However, this number rose significantly when the question was posed to students that fell into the lowest socio-economic category, with 54% of students citing proximity to home as a decisive factor; for students in the highest socio-economic grouping this factor affected only 22%.

‘Fees and spiralling living costs are forcing [students] from poorer backgrounds to choose a university close to home’

The findings of the report hope to act as a forewarning to ministers, that as they come to review undergraduate education next year any potential proposals to raise annual tuition fees higher than the current £3,145 cap will be seen as significantly detrimental, especially to those students in the lowest socio-economic band. Citing these concerns Streeting said the NUS was “concerned that opportunities for poorer students remain restricted. Fees and spiralling living costs are forcing those from poorer backgrounds to choose a university close to home – this has to be taken into account in the forthcoming review of higher education funding. We cannot allow fees to continue to exacerbate this problem.”

The NUS claim that this report is the “first major study into student experience”, offering a comprehensive portrait of the habits, hopes and motivations of undergraduates. The study showed that students underestimated the annual cost of student life by £450, with 42% misguided into thinking themselves eligible to bursaries. Undergraduates with part-time employment work an average of 15 hours a week, 45% of which claim the part-time work distracted them from their studies. However, nearly half of those students in part-time work deemed it a necessary source of income, without which their basic living costs would have exceeded their loan.

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