Struggling to Balance Work and Study: The Harsh Reality for University Students in England

Are you tired of feeling like you’re drowning in debt while trying to pursue higher education? You’re not alone. University students across England are struggling to make ends meet and keep up with their studies, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Sutton Trust and BBC News.

Heidi Parker, a 20-year-old criminology and psychology student at Leeds Beckett University, has been forced to skip lectures in order to work shifts at a music venue just to stay afloat. She’s not the only one – almost half of undergraduate students who responded to the poll admitted to missing a lecture, seminar, or workshop in order to do paid work.

It’s not just one-off absences, either. One in eight students say they’ve missed university entirely to work once, while almost a third say they’ve done so more than once. And 6% prioritize paid work over their studies, with almost a quarter missing a university deadline or asking for an extension just to make enough money to survive.

The cost of living crisis is having a severe impact on students, with prices and inflation on the rise. Heidi has had to work up to 45 hours a week just to afford her rent, and even then, she’s still struggling to keep her head above water. Her rent will be going up soon, and her weekly bills are already on the rise.

Leeds Beckett University has committed its entire contingency fund of £3.4m to help struggling students, but it’s clear that more needs to be done. The Sutton Trust is calling for the government to reintroduce maintenance grants and increase financial support so that low- and moderate-income students can fully partake in the university experience.

It’s not just about missing out on lectures and seminars, either. Students like Jamie Chevalier-Watts, a 23-year-old at the University of Portsmouth, are being forced to work long hours just to make ends meet. Jamie works in a bar and often finishes his shifts at 6am, leaving him little time to focus on his coursework.

With inflation at around 10%, student support is at its lowest level for seven years, in real terms. More than half of all students receiving a maintenance loan say it doesn’t cover their living costs, according to a study by the Office for National Statistics. It’s time for the government to step up and provide the support that students desperately need.

The Department for Education has made an extra £15m in funding available for disadvantaged students, but it’s clear that this is not enough. We need a comprehensive solution that will provide students with the financial support they need to pursue their education without having to sacrifice their future to make ends meet. Join the fight for fairer student support today.

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