Students skip lectures as cost-of-living crisis mounts

Office for National Statistics survey shows students are also considering pausing their studies or switching to remote learning

November 23, 2022
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About three in 10 students in England are skipping lectures to save money because of the cost-of-living crisis, an official survey shows.

It also shows that large proportions have considered pausing their studies for a year, changing to remote learning or moving back in with their parents.

The Office for National Statistics polled more than 4,200 students in England – most of whom were undergraduates – between 24 October and 7 November about how the cost-of-living crisis has impacted their behaviour.

More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents are very or somewhat worried that rising prices might affect how well they do in their degree, while about a third are less likely to pursue further study after finishing their course.

The figures also show that concerns about costs have already affected their studies this year, and detail the steps students are taking to save money.

Nearly three in 10 (29 per cent) are skipping non-mandatory lectures or tutorials to save on costs, and 31 per cent are forgoing course-related events, such as field trips or conferences.

In addition, 40 per cent of students are studying at home more, with 27 per cent travelling to their higher education provider less frequently.

The ONS asked whether students had considered making any changes to their study arrangements.

Similar proportions say that they have thought about pausing their course and resuming next year (19 per cent), that they have considered switching to a remote learning-based course (19 per cent) or that they have considered commuting to class from their family home (18 per cent).

However, very few say they are actively planning on taking any of these actions, and just 2 per cent say they are unlikely to continue studying this year.

Overall, almost all students (91 per cent) say their cost of living has increased from last year, and 91 per cent have also been worried about it within the past two weeks.

As a result, 62 per cent report that they are spending less on groceries and essentials, and 38 per cent say they are using less gas or electricity at home.

“This new survey from the ONS indicates that the cost-of-living crisis is already having a significant impact on students’ finances, well-being and education,” Laura Brown, co-head of editorial at Save the Student, told Times Higher Education.

She said the government urgently needed to increase maintenance loans in line with inflation to ensure that students can afford to attend lectures and keep up with rising living costs.

The survey also shows that 11 per cent of students know someone who has sold drugs within the past six months because of the rising cost of living.

Almost one in 10 know someone who has engaged in sex work, and 14 per cent know someone who has stolen things they need from a shop.

Despite the financial issues they are facing, three-quarters of students have not applied for any financial assistance from their university.

A Department for Education spokesman said the government was providing £261 million of hardship support this year via the Office for Students.

“These findings will help the sector better understand the financial challenges students face and what additional steps may be needed to support them,” the spokesman said.

“Many universities are doing fantastic work to support their students through a variety of programmes. We urge any student who is worried about their circumstances to speak to their university.”

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