Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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.

Joy Anderson
Senior Adviser to Students
February 2001

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