David Gilani

Ending Student Poverty

I believe that no student should ever have financial difficulties hold them back from getting an education

And yet… it happens all the time. Many students run to the edge of their over-draft… compete fiercely to get more and more hours in their part-time job… get stressed and insecure about this financial pressure… most worry about their student loans for decades to come (check out a great article on the student loans problem in USA right now)… and ultimately… every year, dozens of students drop out of this University because they couldn’t afford to get an education. I want a University where that never happens again.

SUSU as your Students’ Union, isn’t just about putting on events and activities for you to get involved with, but it’s also about representing you to the University – and as your Union President, representing you on these financial projects will be my main goal for the year. Here are some of the things I’d like to achieve:

student povertyObviously, there is a lot to achieve here, so support from students who are passionate about this issue is really supported to make sure that we can keep on improving the access to education here at Southampton and make sure that finances don’t hold us back from our potential.

Cheers as always for reading.

David Gilani

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24 Comments on "Ending Student Poverty"

  1. David
    04/11/2013 at 4:48 pm Permalink

    I think that this is a really important issue, glad to see this blog. Especially because, speaking from my own university experience and confessing to a lack of empirical knowledge, the majority of students are relatively if not downright comfortable financially. (i suspect this may have something to do with attending a southern university, but would be interesting to find out). Contrary to the myth, only a small number of students seem to fill the ‘student poverty’ bracket, which makes it all the more overwhelming and unenjoyable for those who have no money and are 2K into their overdrafts – glad to see SUSU is aware of this esp. barriers to participation. There have been multiple instances over my time at uni where i have been unable to participate in things I was passionate about due to financial strains, which is a real shame considering the size of tuition fees.

  2. David
    David Gilani
    04/11/2013 at 6:32 pm Permalink

    Cheers for the comment, Isaac. I completely agree – student poverty needs to be looked at in a broad manner. Leaving University on the verge of breaking their overdraft should not be a normal thing – and part of this is looking at costs whilst students are here, such as the barriers to participation work and course costs.

  3. David
    cameron DeGale
    14/09/2014 at 3:57 pm Permalink

    It is interesting to see the issues students face and over the years I have been reading a lot about it. Can you really have a stress free time whilst you are worrying about how to make ends meet. Glad to hear it’s ok for some.
    I think studying is much more fun when you do not have to worry about the costs. It is also a relief if you are able to clear the bill before your term ends. It really is not ideal to be in a situation when there is not enough month to cover the costs.

  4. David
    Anonymous Coward
    04/11/2013 at 5:13 pm Permalink

    I think you need to define “Student Poverty” before you can have a meaningful discussion about it.

  5. David
    David Gilani
    04/11/2013 at 6:36 pm Permalink

    I suppose I have a definition, AC.

    “Whenever a student has financial difficulties hold them back from getting their education”… that’s what I’m calling Student Poverty… and I don’t want it to happen.

  6. David
    04/11/2013 at 7:07 pm Permalink

    Hi Dave,

    But surely it is more than that, like standard of living? People can still gain education through tuition loans, but not have enough money to socialise/eat well?

  7. David
    David Gilani
    04/11/2013 at 7:18 pm Permalink

    Ah yes – sorry, Again… I must have not explained myself properly – this work includes allowing people to have a certain standard of living, which hopefully will come through in some research about barriers to participation in our student groups. I think that everybody should be able to afford being part of a student group at the very least… to some extent this work will also include socialising and eating well. Cheers for the correction.

  8. David
    04/11/2013 at 6:21 pm Permalink

    Once you’ve worked out a Soton student living wage, will you apply it to SUSU employees if the living wage is higher than the SUSU hourly pay rate? Not complaining about the hourly rate, just wondering if that policy will apply to SUSU as well as outside organisations.

  9. David
    David Gilani
    04/11/2013 at 6:39 pm Permalink

    Hey Josh, yeah that’s the general idea. SUSU supports the living wage (in fact it’s living wage week http://www.livingwage.org.uk/living-wage-week-2013), and I think that it’s important that people’s work give them enough money to live. This might be a different amount for students, but I still believe that we should be paying them enough to achieve this principle.

    We’ve very recently just commissioned some research into working out what this student living wage is – once we find it out… we’ll then have to look at the commercial implications of adopting it, but adopting it is my aim – otherwise how do we hope to lobby other organisations to do the same. Cheers for commenting.

  10. David
    04/11/2013 at 6:42 pm Permalink

    This makes for really interesting reading and I think it is an issue that will remain at the centre of student life for a long while yet.

    Whilst I agree that there are issues around the costs of going to university and would also wish never to see a student drop out for financial reasons we need to be careful. I would argue that going to university is an investment in ones future; therefore I think that people should not be adverse to the idea of leaving university with some debt. I think along side campaigns such as this we should also be emphasising how achievement whilst at university, be it academic or otherwise, will help quickly reduce any debt as a result of the university experience.

    I think that society as a whole needs accept it is going to see a change in the way university funding is structured. With those who can paying more whilst more needs to be done to properly asses who needs support and ensuring that this is available to them. For this reason I supported the rise in fees not only because I felt it would see those who could paying more but also because I think it started the long overdue change in the way people view university. This is not somewhere people should come to have a good time for three years and well if I get a 2:2 at least there was that one really good time in Jesters with that girl/guy…. This is a serious choice and decision and to make it work students need to work hard to get that 1st and that place on a graduate scheme that makes it worth all that money.

    So whilst I support all the things mentioned above we need to ensure that when we say things like more bursaries for students we are working to ensure more funding for those that are struggling and not those that are managing. There is a similar point to be made about a living wage there is financial support for students and I feel that it is more important to ensure the living wage is 0 (even if this does lead to some debt) so students can work hard. What is the point of working all through university only to have damaged your future job prospects?

  11. David
    David Gilani
    04/11/2013 at 7:16 pm Permalink

    Cheers for the comment, Henry – some really good thoughts in there.

    I agree with you that there should be some cost to University – and I don’t have a problem with tuition loans in principle, because I believe that students should contribute some money towards the cost of University and because the loan system allows people from all backgrounds to access Higher Education. I more have a problem with people not being able to live at university because their maintenance support is too low. Maintenance loans should allow students to cover their costs of living whilst at University – however a recent report from the NUS shows that there is up to a gap of £7,000 each year from costs of living compared to the loan. This is unacceptable, as it means that students have to overwork with part-time jobs, miss out on important opportunities at University, and reach the end of overdrafts.

    Part of the work I’m doing on the student living wage is about working out what is an acceptable amount of hours for a student to work part-time. I do think having a part-time job is a beneficial thing – but the hours obviously can’t be the same as someone working full time, otherwise as you say, you can damage your University workload.

    Cheers again for the comment, mate.

  12. David
    04/11/2013 at 8:19 pm Permalink

    “I think that society as a whole needs accept it is going to see a change in the way university funding is structured.”

    I have to disagree with this. There is no financial reason why university funding has to stay the way that it is or indeed get more expensive. It’s simply a question of priorities and political will. The government could make university tuition free again tomorrow if it wanted to. Cancel some needless infrastructure spending here, raise taxes on the more well off (particularly MPs) a little there, etc. Simply giving up and accepting the raw deal that every university student (new ones particularly) are now getting here in the UK, whilst our continental and Scandinavian friends across the channel/sea continue to enjoy lower fees or none at all, is madness quite frankly. Inequality and inequity in the UK is now worse than it is in the US by some measures, for a variety of reasons… mostly politically or corporately driven. Redistribution of wealth appears to have become a bit of a forgotten concept in British politics, for no reason other than individual greed. Yet students are being pushed to the limit by politicians to see how much it can make us pay until we all just stop going to university and attitudes like that are simply playing right into their hands, just so they can help their banker friends get their hands on the student loan books and crank up the interest year on year. Society does not need to accept anything. Society does not need to just lie down and take whatever the government seeks fit to give us.

    As for what can be done to end student poverty at Southampton specifically, a start would be to reduce the price difference difference between Monte and Glen Eyre for exactly the same room (actually worse since Monte 3 had central heating and was closer to the laundry). £14 a week might not seem like a lot, but it can be the difference between only being able to eat and being able to do that and socialise too. It isn’t £14 a week closer to the university is it? It’s nonsense and I’ve been in some private rented houses which are much nicer, in quieter and more accessible areas and cost half as much as halls even with bills. You’ve got a captive market on students who come from further afield and can’t arrange private accommodation in advance, so the university helping itself to 70% of my maintanence loan and grant leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Lower the prices back to reality and introduce a parity between room types at all halls.

  13. David
    05/11/2013 at 3:50 pm Permalink

    I agree with you completely there is no reason why university tuition fees couldn’t be made free tomorrow. However, would not say I was giving up far from it I am advocating the rise in tuition fees, as I see it it is the easiest way of ensuring that those who benefit from higher education are paying for it. I would only suggest that the redistribution of wealth you talk about is done through the availability of funding for those going to university who need it. Rather than making university free for all I suggest making it free for those who need it to be free and those who can pay should pay. Personally I feel the worst thing that could be done for universities in the UK was to make them free. I think that the idea that the problems of inequality and inequity are solved by making university education widely available is madness, it was a policy that was followed by the last labour government and I would say it doesn’t work.

    I think change is coming with many things including university funding. We need to accept this and make the change work for us by trying to ensure it is fair the country can not continue to spend spend spend we do as you say need to prioritise but trying to give people a free leg up into university is not a better idea than creating jobs through infrastructure projects.

  14. David
    05/11/2013 at 4:45 pm Permalink

    But everyone benefits from higher education in some form or another and those who benefit directly from higher education already paid for it when tuition fees were lower or free (at the point of education), through taxation on higher wages for the rest of their working lives. I completely agree though that those who can pay up front should absolutely do so, and many wealthy people do (especially with the rising interest rates that student loans are now subject to). You need only look at the US student loan crisis to see that credit is not the way to pay for higher education. I think everyone can agree that the Labour target of 50% for university education was ridiculous, leading only to a surplus of graduates in a job market that either didn’t expand or indeed contracted and a general decline in the value of a degree, and I wasn’t advocating that at all, but cutting funding to non-STEM subjects and front-loading the costs of tuition with credit isn’t the answer (especially not with calls now to increase tuition fees with inflation too, or £16,000 as suggested by Oxford). Higher education is not a product or service that only affects the individual, it’s not a car bought on finance, it’s an investment in the future of this country, much like HS2 (arguably much more so), much like the NHS, much like primary education. Primary education is rightly seen as vital and any political attempt to make parents pay up front for it would bring down the government, and quite rightly, but as we move further and further into a deindustrialised and specialised economic landscape, so too must higher education become vital.

    I just take issue with the attitude that we have to accept and personally adapt to every change the government gives us, without challenging them or working to undo damage that they cause. The past 40 years of successive governments have ensured that British society is completely unfair and it isn’t an either/or question between spending recklessly or dogmatically reducing the size of the state and everything it provides.

  15. David
    04/11/2013 at 9:41 pm Permalink

    This is a good step forward from you all…especially the fact that you also thought about international students (which is always ignored). People ignore the fact that these students pay a lot more and have very limited sources of funding. Kudos guys 🙂

  16. David
    David Gilani
    04/11/2013 at 10:56 pm Permalink

    Cheers for the comment, Umang, always appreciated. Oh yes – the problem around international student fees is the main reason that I started looking at student finances. It’s taken up more of my time and focus than any other project since becoming President, and I really hope that we can end the fees disparity this year. It’s horrific the difficulties that it places on some students at the moment.

    There’s also been some great work done by the University’s Student Services team this year on their financial support for students in need, which is now simpler and much more easily accessible – especially for international students, who could only apply in certain circumstances before.

  17. David
    05/11/2013 at 5:52 pm Permalink

    This is definitely really interesting and a step in the right direction. What I was wondering is whether there’s any intention to apply this to something like Freshers packs? The master pass was really expensive and I imagine there are many students that we’re unable to afford it. Is there perhaps a way that students who are unable to afford these costs in the future to still have access?

  18. David
    David Gilani
    05/11/2013 at 6:17 pm Permalink

    Definitely, Ross. I think the masterpass was great this year in the sense that it stopped a lot of the confusion that students always have about what tickets they should buy… however it did put up an access issue, which I obviously took very seriously and introduced a number of small fixes to make sure that students could still attend events in Freshers’… now that we have seen it in action for a year, we do need to give it a proper think when preparing for next Freshers’ Week. Cheers for the comment.


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