The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has looked into the impact of the cost of living crisis on students. Their findings are based on 4,201 responses from students in higher education at a range of universities in England. The response rate was 1.2%. The majority of respondents were undergraduates (68%), followed by post-graduates (28%) and 4 % Other (eg Foundation year students).

Commenting on the findings, Tim Gibbs from the Office for National Statistics said: “In common with most adults we have surveyed, these findings show that most students in higher education are experiencing the impact of cost of living increases. However, for some this may also be impacting on their educational experience, with some cutting back on non-mandatory aspect of their course to save money and considering other options such as suspending their studies.”

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  • As with the wider adult population, nine out of ten (91%) higher education students reported an increase in the cost of living compared to a year ago. Food, rent/mortgages and gas and electricity costs were those most cited.
  • Half (50%) of students surveyed said they had financial difficulties, with 35% describing these difficulties as minor and 15% as major. A further 29% of students said they were just about managing.
  • Asked to compare their financial situation to this time last year, half (51%) reported that their income had decreased a little or a lot. One in four (25%) students have taken on new debt, including borrowing more or using more credit than usual, in response to rising cost-of-living. Two thirds (66%) of this group said it was because their student loan was not enough to support their living costs. Only 16% had applied for some form of bursary and 7% to their university hardship fund.
  • Nine out of ten (91%) said they were very or somewhat worried about the rising cost of living. Over three-quarters (77%) of students were concerned that the rising cost-of-living may affect how well they do in their studies and 45% of students reported their mental health and well being had worsened since the start of the Autumn term 2022. The average level of life satisfaction among students (5.9) was significantly lower than the adult population in Great Britain (6.8).
  • Looking at actions students were taking to address the cost of living, 62% reported that they were spending less on food shopping and essentials, 52% had been using their savings and 38% had been using less gas or electricity in their home. Three in ten (29%) were skipping non-mandatory lectures/tutorials to save on costs and three in ten (31%) were not attending additional course related events that cost money (such as field trips or conferences). Additionally, four in ten (40%) students were studying more at home to save on costs, with 27% travelling to their university, college or higher education provider less frequently and 21% attending lectures remotely where possible.
  • Nearly one in five students (19%) said they considered pausing their course and resuming it next year although only 1% were actively planning to do so. Likewise, 19% were considered changing from classroom-based to remote learning, with 2% actively planning to do so. More students (6%) reported planning to move back to their family home and commute to university from there.
  • Seven out of ten (71%) of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their academic experience since the start of the Autumn term 2022, while 54% said the same for their social experience. Students reporting financial difficulties were significantly less likely to say they were satisfied with their academic (65%) or social experience (48%).
  • Asked if they are likely to continue their studies this academic year, 64% of students said they were extremely likely to do so, and a further 27% said they were likely to do so. Only 1% said they were unlikely and a further 1% that they were extremely unlikely to do so.

The findings tally with similar National Union of Student (NUS) research which found that a quarter of students say financial worries are having a major impact on their mental health, as increasing numbers cut down on essentials.

A survey of more than 4,500 UK university students, carried out by the National Union of Students (NUS), found that 96 per cent are making cutbacks, with over half spending less on food, another half heating their homes less regularly, and one in ten cutting back on sanitary products. Three quarters also report socialising less to save money.

More than a quarter of students are left with less than £50 a month after covering rent and bills, and 42 per cent are surviving on less than £100.