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More than £3.5 million committed to student support

Posted on 20 January 2021

The University of York has committed just over £3.5 million in services and programmes to provide support for students with financial or health and wellbeing needs.

The Forest is an outdoor social space for students

This includes £1m from the University’s Emergency Student Support Fund for Covid-19, supported by the University and through donations from alumni, friends and supporters, which has been awarded to more than 2,000 students.

The fund also included an IT Equipment Bursary for students and new starters who need help to afford a laptop or other IT needs related to online learning. 

Students used the money for a variety of reasons in response to the pandemic, with nearly 80% of recipients putting part of the award towards food and living expenses, and almost half used it to pay for accommodation. More than 15% used the funds to help with study-related costs.

Mental health

Roxanne Russell, a final year undergraduate student commenting on the support she received via the Emergency Student Support Fund, said: "The grant has helped ease the burden of financial strain at the most crucial part of my degree.”

The University committed £2m to its Open Door and Disability Service, to support students who experience mental health issues and who may have a disability that requires specialist support. 

University of York Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery, said: “The time you spend at University is often the best years of life, but some students will face more challenges than others, and we know the impact of the pandemic has magnified difficulties and disrupted every element of the student experience. 

“Recognising this, we’ve invested in many different support packages, to ensure that all of our students have access to the resources they need to continue with their education, and which focus on helping students look after their physical and mental health and wellbeing..

“In addition to this, we have been overwhelmed by the support from our donors and University supporters, who have helped assist our students and our community in many different ways. From enabling students to equip themselves for online learning during the pandemic, through to contributing to health and study-related costs, we are very grateful for their generosity.”

Financial strain

As a result of the current national lockdown in the UK, it is anticipated that many students might experience financial difficulties due to not being able to work in part-time jobs whilst they study, either through work-place closures or having to self-isolate for a period of time. In anticipation, the University has increased its Emergency Student Support Fund, which is accessible to students experiencing unforeseen financial challenges, by an additional £400K.

In response to feedback from students, the University is also working with the York University Student Union and academic departments to invest £120K in student internships, to develop initiatives that help students connect with their peers in academic departments, and their wider year-group. 

Lobbying government

Since the start of the pandemic, the University has also allocated approximately £285K in creating outdoor Covid-secure social and study spaces for students to interact with the wider University community. Led by the York University Students’ Union, this included the creation of the Forest, an open-air site complete with tents, outdoor seating areas, bars, and food trucks, and has been well received by students, as well as the construction of the Marquee facilities, which are bookable spaces for up to six in one household to be used as social or study spaces. 

Some of these spaces are currently available to students who are living in York and will continue to be available to all returning students once the UK lockdown ends. 

Alongside the University, the York University Students’ Union and Graduate Students’ Association continue to lobby the Government for additional hardship funding to help universities support students who have lost casual jobs or who may be facing other financial challenges as a result of the pandemic.