Question to the Department for Education:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of (a) linking student maintenance support to inflation, (b) changing eligibility criteria for Universal Credit to increase the number of students that are eligible, (c) capping student rent, (d) providing funding to education providers to deliver improved hardship funds and (e) adjusting maintenance loan thresholds, in the context of increases in the cost of living.
The government reviews the support provided to cover students’ living costs on an annual basis and recognises the additional cost of living pressures that have arisen this year which have impacted students.
The department has boosted our student premium by £15 million to help students who need extra support. This extra funding, now totalling £276 million, will complement the help universities are providing through their own bursary, scholarship and hardship support schemes. The department works with the Office for Students (OfS) to ensure universities support students using both hardship funds and drawing on the student premium.
In the 2022/23 academic year, there has been an increase of 2.3% in loans for living costs, and there will be a further increase of 2.8% for the 2023/24 academic year. Decisions on student finance have had to be taken alongside other spending priorities to ensure the system remains financially sustainable and that the costs of higher education are shared fairly between students and taxpayers, not all of whom have benefited from going to university. Students who have been awarded a loan for living costs for the 2022/23 academic year that is lower than the maximum, and whose household income for the 2022/23 tax year has dropped by at least 15% compared to the income provided for their original assessment, can apply for their entitlement to be reassessed.
Loans for living costs are a contribution towards students’ living costs while attending university. The highest levels of support are targeted at students who need it the most, such as students from low-income families.
The primary source of financial help for students is provided through the student support system. As such, students on full-time higher education courses cannot normally satisfy the entitlement conditions for Universal Credit.
Exceptions are only made where students have additional needs that are not met through the student support system, for example, if they are responsible for a child.
Further details on claiming Universal Credit as a student which includes a list of students who may qualify for Universal Credit can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/universal-credit-and-students.
The government plays no role in the provision of student residential accommodation. Universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own rent agreements. We encourage universities and private landlords to review their accommodation policies to ensure that they are fair, clear, and have the interests of students at heart. This includes making accommodation available at a range of affordable price points, where possible.
More widely, the government does not support the introduction of rent controls in the private rented sector to set the level of rent at the outset of a tenancy. The White Paper, ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’, published on 16 June 2022 outlines the proposed reforms which will help prevent unfair rent increases for tenants, while ensuring landlords can continue to make necessary changes to rent. The measures include only allowing increases to rent once per year, ending the use of rent review clauses, and improving tenants’ ability to challenge excessive rent increases through the First Tier Tribunal.