UK NUS calls for hardship fund as students worry about job prospects

According to an NUS survey of almost 10,000 students across the UK, 81% expressed concerns about job prospects and 74% are worried about the risk to their final qualifications.

“Students are being forgotten during the Covid-19 pandemic”

Some 71% are worried about the impact the pandemic will have on their employability.

“Students are being forgotten during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are the future workforce that will have to help to rebuild our economy over the coming years,” Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS national president, warned.

“Students must not be forgotten. A student safety net will demonstrate that this government cares about the students of today and recognises the role of all students in our future.

“Coronavirus has hit thousands of students in the pocket and severely affected the quality of their learning,” Ibrahim added.

The NUS survey also found that 33% of students are at critical risk of being unable to access their education.

Meanwhile, NUS acknowledged that the Scottish government has “led the way” in offering a support package of £5m and noting that NUS Scotland is calling for all students, including internationals, to be included in that.

“The current crisis has shown that students occupy the worst of all possible worlds – with the majority paying extortionate fees for their education and are treated as consumers but are left out in the cold when the product cannot be delivered as described,” said Ibrahim.

“On top of this, thousands of trainee ‘key workers,’ such as healthcare students, are currently racking up debt whilst having their education disrupted or volunteering to fight coronavirus on the frontline.”

The national Student Safety Net campaign will urge the UK government to provide comprehensive, urgent support for both domestic and international students currently studying in the country.

A safety net economic package should provide access to a grant which can be used for training, reskilling or development, the NUS added.

Every student should be given the option to redo this academic year at no further cost, the union has suggested, while others should be given a reimbursement of one year’s course fees if they have paid upfront.

The government has failed to address the various living cost during the crisis, Ibrahim noted.

“Face-to-face teaching and assessments have had to be hurriedly moved online, and placement and other practical activity has had to be cancelled.

“Students have lacked access to key resources, such as libraries and spaces, disabled students have been left unsupported, and students and staff have been struggling with other demands on their finances, welfare and wider lives as lockdown restrictions are enforced.”

This week the UK government confirmed that international students who are employed by an NHS trust would not be confined to usual working hours caps of 20 hours per week.

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