Memorandum from the Central Academic Advisory
Service, University of Manchester (HE 149)
Thank you for the opportunity to talk yesterday
with members of the Select Committee, and for inviting follow-up
comments. The Advisers in CAAS saw last year almost 500 students,
who contacted us to discuss a wide range of matters affecting
their academic progress, so we have considerable experience of
the issues students are currently finding problematic. It should
be noted however that we see only students who choose to approach
the Service for help. Many other clearly do not.
I write to highlight the two points I made during
the course of the meeting yesterday.
1. Many students are now under great pressure
as they attempt to juggle their academic work with the part-time
jobs they need to take in order to meet the costs of being a student
(often taking up well over 16 hours a week). Where students also
have family and personal commitments, as is often the case with
mature students, or have problems with their physical and emotional
health, or have other difficulties, the pressure can become intolerable.
Financial pressures are thus often enmeshed with wider academic,
personal and health concerns. It is vital that students have access
to good support to enable them to disentangle issues, and address
each problem in turn, thus regaining a sense of control over their
situation. There is need for full co-ordination of student support,
within and outside academic departments, and for raising awareness
of the multiple pressures on students, and of the ways in which
we all, in our different roles, can enable students to address
effectively the range of problems they may experience.
2. There is also need for closer integration
between the student loan system and the additional schemes of
student financial support (the Hardship Loan, the Hardship Funds,
various bursaries etc). It is often hard for students to understand
the full range of financial support for which they might be eligible.
Students weighing up the costs and benefits of coming to/staying
at university need to know very clearly what financial support
they can expect. The present uncoordinated systems require administrative
staff in universities to spend an ever-increasing amount of time
trying to understand the schemes, and explain them to students.
Both students needing guidance, and all staff offering financial
advice, would benefit greatly from better integration of schemes,
fuller advance notification of changes to funding systems, and
greater transparency of all the schemes in place.
Senior Adviser to Students