Which Students’ Unions have been involved in proposing?
NUS Wales, Gower College Swansea Students’ Union
What’s the issue and how does it affect students?
We’ve received two policy submission on cost of living, one more widely and one focusing on rising food costs for students.
Students across Wales are struggling in the Cost-of-Living Crisis. Constantly battling to afford our homes, food and travel to our classes. Students have felt the impact of a failing Westminster government even despite devolution, whether that be increased tuition fees, frozen repayment thresholds, or lack of funding to help access our education. Learners are increasingly prone to dropping out because they can’t afford the day-day essentials, even with financial support and working part-time jobs. We need collective action, both individually and as four-nation movement, to target governments to deliver support package for students and society that values education.
Rising food costs on and off campus are causing particular detriment; students are having to work alongside their studies and still unable to afford basic nutrition. On campus provisions are likely to be more nutritious but not priced accessibly, particularly for those not receiving additional funding.
What changes would we like to see in society to change this?
Against the backdrop of a never-seen-before rise in industrial action, and a 2024 General Election, there is shift and will across society to build better places for us to live and learn. Students must come together as a unified collective voice, sending message that we need better to survive. Student Poverty is UKGov policy; this cannot go on. We need action at institution/Government level to deliver on basics. We need food on the table. We need a freeze and decrease in rents. We need a way to get to class that doesn’t put us out of pocket. We need more money to survive and thrive.
FE and HE institutions to be proactive in providing fairer on campus food options without causing detriment to farmers/producers. Institutions to facilitate communal accessible space focused on tackling isolation in the student community due to food costs.
NUSW should follow direction and leadership of membership, talking directly to WG/(Westminster for reserved matters). Need direct action to tackle costs hitting students/apprentices - whether that's food poverty, travel costs, rent/any other bills. We’ve seen success; we need to remain focussed to continue to build on this. For this to happen, we need to organise within our students’ unions to gain active supporters for our campaigns/ mobilise students on the ground to feel motivated to take action when and where they can. This looks different across different campus contexts; must stand unified behind goal of fighting for positive change for students.
How does it impact FE students / Apprentices?
FE students and apprentices are victims of a regime of austerity that leaves them behind. They have less financial support available than HE and must unlock their voice to ensure it is amplified to tackles issues felt on the ground. FE EMA has not increased since its introduction, and apprentices are expected to survive on £4.81 an hour.
The COLC impacts all SUs and their members, no matter how small or large. We must work with small/specialist SUs to ensure officers/staff have support to mobilise and organise on campus. We must also ensure that support students receive is relevant and targeted like tackling the costs of tools or materials.
Food costs specifically impact FE and apprentices as many are having to work partly due to the lack of affordable prices. Students are also looking for more nutritious options to be cheaper so students in FE and apprentices are healthier!
How does it impact on International Students, Postgraduate Students, Part-Time and Mature Students?
COLC continues to hit all students and apprentices; we must ensure government response is accessible to international students being exploited by cash-grabbing system. Parents having to choose between textbooks and feeding their family needs to change now. PG maintenance has not increased as much as UG (1.8% vs 9.4%) - we need to stop leaving PGs behind.
International Students may face language and culture barriers whilst in the UK, and may need additional communication support, especially around CoL and price increases.
How does it impact on black, disabled, LGBT+, trans and women students?
Students and apprentices who identify within liberation groups need to feel supported and empowered to co-create both our asks and our tactics in our campaigns. The COL crisis exacerbates power structures which puts students in dangerous living situations and unable to feel confident in who they are.
Does this apply across the UK or specifically in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
Is the response needed different in different parts of the UK?
Each nation in UK needs different solutions to the COLC, because of the differences in devolved/reserved matters. The goal is fundamentally the same, to get students support they need, when and how they need it. We should ensure society is built to see education as something to be protected across all nations.
NUS Wales to take a stance of solidarity with other organisations campaigning around the cost of living.
NUS to adopt a stance to campaign for;
- fairer wages
- child benefit and other state welfare provisions
- Scrapping tuition fees
- reintroduction of child tax credit
- increase in maintenance loans and grants
Universities should only ethically recruit and only recruit to local capacity in terms of their residences, local housing and the local costs of living (taking into consideration, local food costs).
NUS Wales to lobby the government for EMA funding to be increased and made more accessible
International students should be catered for in terms of food, shelter and basic necessities as well as their specific needs (such as family needs) and for their admission not to be based on income prior to moving here to enact this.