April 13, 2024

Economy Minister announces additional £1m to support students

Conor Murphy

Economy Minister Conor Murphy has announced an additional £1million to support students facing financial hardship as a result of the increased costs of living.

Recent surveys have found money worries have left some students struggling to buy essentials like food and creating stress with managing increased costs alongside studies and exams, and there have been calls for the Assembly to help.

The funds will be distributed to Queen’s University, Ulster University, The Open University, St Mary’s University College and Stranmillis University College for eligible students at those institutions to apply for.

Mr Murphy said: “I am acutely aware of the impact of cost of living increases on students and am pleased to make this additional £1million available immediately.”

The support funds are distributed by the higher education institutions to students who find themselves in financial hardship and who, without additional financial support, might not be able to complete their course.

This funding of £1million is in addition to the £2.8million of support funds already committed by the Department for the Economy this year and is in response to the high level of demand being experienced by the higher education institutions.

Mr Murphy continued: “A thriving higher education sector is critical for a strong, regionally balanced economy and I am engaging with my officials to fully scope the options for further changes to financial and other means of support.

“I encourage any student who feels that they may be eligible for additional support to contact their higher education institution and apply. I also urge the institutions to ensure they apply eligibility criteria as flexibly as possible when considering applications for support from students.”

In February, a survey from the NUS-USI union revealed that the vast majority of students in Northern Ireland have said they are constantly worried about finance.

It showed that 84% of students have financial concerns, with more than one in five (22%) saying money worries dominate their lives.

Almost 40% said dealing with the stress of the cost of living was impacting their mental health with around 25% considering leaving their course.

It also showed that 68% have seen their housing costs rise with a quarter unable to pay rent or bills and 60% having to work alongside their studies leaving them struggling to concentrate on their studies and with little time to socialise

Speaking at the time, Chloe Ferguson president of the NUS-USI said: “The stories we are hearing from students across our campuses are harrowing”.

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