This year’s focus for National Student Money Week is on student accommodation. The theme ‘Where I Live’ was chosen to zero in on the cost of student housing and how it is affecting budgeting, student debt and mental health in our universities up and down the country.
Whilst The Money Charity has previously carried out research on the issue of rising student rent prices, the issue still remains, leading to rent strikes in a number of universities, especially in London. Our 2015 report ‘Not free at the point of entry: The reality of paying upfront for university’ found that high rent levels and a lack of growth in maintenance loans (then grants) were causing a number of students financial difficulties. We found that the average rent increased in 2014/15 by £277 outside London, and £174 in the Capital, outstripping the average rise in maintenance grants of £121.
Since then, pressures on student finances have only increased. Statistics gathered in 2018 under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the number of students in rental arrears rose by 16%, with the average annual halls fees from the Universities surveyed rising by £625 between 2012/13 to 2016/17 – a change of 13.6%. Guardian analysis of NUS figures between 2009/10 and 2015/16 found that rent for purpose-built student accommodation rose by 23%.
The rise in accommodation costs has been met with frustration and resistance from many students and student unions. In 2016, more than 1,000 students from University College London, Goldsmiths, Roehampton and the Courtauld Institute took part in a rent strike, withholding around £1m of fees from their universities. The strike action eventually led to some universities freezing rent costs for 2016/17 and making more funds available for accommodation bursaries.
We at The Money Charity believe it is vital students are able to manage their money efficiently and effectively at university, especially with growing financial stresses. That is why we are supporting National Student Money Week through promoting student’s financial wellness and education, as well as providing Student Money Manuals to current and prospective students. The Money Charity also delivers money workshops at schools in Wales, Northern Ireland and England. We want to make sure all students receive the financial education they need to keep on top of their money when entering the world of university, and eventually the world of work. The Where I Live theme highlights the growing need for financial education in schools, colleges and universities across the UK, and we are proud to continue to be a key part of its delivery.