Sheffield university Vice-Chancellor welcomes extra £50 million for struggling students but says more support is ‘urgently’ needed
A Sheffield university leader has welcomed an additional £50 million from the Government to support students who are struggling with financial pressures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said a more extensive package is “urgently needed” to reduce the impact of the current health crisis on those who are most in need of help.
Universities will be able to use the extra £50 million in funding to help students facing additional costs for alternative accommodation, loss of employment or to support access to remote teaching.
The money is an addition to a one-off fund of up to £20 million announced by the Government in December to support students in exceptional circumstances, bringing the total to £70 million for this financial year.
Prof Husbands said: “The government’s increased commitment to support student hardship is a step in the right direction, but a much more extensive package of support is urgently needed to mitigate the devastating impact of the pandemic on England’s most disadvantaged students.
“Sheffield Hallam has made a substantial commitment to supporting our most vulnerable students over the last ten months, providing £3.8 million in hardship funds, laptops and free essential supplies and food deliveries to self-isolating students.
"We will continue to do everything we can to support our students, but with pressures on hardship funds expected to increase significantly over the next few months, we urgently need a greater commitment from government to support students and universities through this challenging period.”
The majority of university students in England have been told to stay at home and not return to campus under the current lockdown restrictions, prompting campaigns for rent rebates for term-time accommodation and tuition fee refunds.
In an open letter last week, Prof Husbands said Sheffield Hallam University had been lobbying the Government to recognise the financial difficulties facing its students, including with regard to accommodation.
Along with Andrew Adegbola, Sheffield Hallam University Students' Union President, he urged landlords and accommodation providers to offer rent rebates or partial refunds to students who need to stay away from their term-time address.
It comes after dozens of university students in the city joined a historic rent strike in an effort to make their voices and concerns heard.