University students hit by lockdowns should get financial support, says Sheffield MP

An emergency hardship fund and full compensation for rents should be made available for university students who suffered due to lockdown.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students, which is chaired by Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield says the Government should substantially increase student support.

It follows an inquiry into the case for compensation for university students following the impact of the pandemic.

The committee examined evidence from across the university sector, the National Union of Students, 47 students’ unions, individuals and private landlords.

Paul Blomfield MP.

It recommended the Government should provide “students with the financial assistance that they need now – through an emergency hardship fund and full compensation for rents in respect of unused accommodation due to lockdown measures, as well as addressing the impact on those facing other financial difficulties”.

Mr Blomfield said: “After examining the huge amount of evidence that we received, we’ve agreed across parties on a bold call for the Government to protect students’ education and support their incomes.

“The pandemic has inflicted huge costs on all of us, and students cannot be neglected.

“It’s a call for major action by the Government, but it’s essential to protect future generations and our universities so I hope the Universities Minister will back these proposals.”

The Government increased student premium funds for hardship by £20 million, available on a one-off basis to support those that need it most.

But the fund was cut by £16 million in May 2020, so there was only a £4 million uplift to a budget intended to support disadvantaged students.

Mr Blomfield added: “On top of this extra hardship funding to compensate students for lost income from jobs, for unusable accommodation and for other financial hardship, we have called for a fund to allow lost learning to be addressed through provision of educational opportunities not available through the pandemic.

“This should be used to fund additional university summer and potentially autumn or future programmes to replace lost teaching, networking, field trips and access to essential specialist facilities to allow students to build the skills and portfolios that they may have otherwise missed out on.”