Cost of Living Surveys
In October I launched my first pulse Cost of living survey. The purpose of this survey was to examine the lived experiences of students regarding how the financial crisis was impacting students at different points across the academic year. You can read the full report here – or you can read the highlights below.
Key results include:
- Students ranked on a Likert scale an average of 8.43 on how worried they were about money and their finances.
- 93% of respondents stated they were worried about the cost-of-living crisis.
- 26% of respondents were having conflict with their housemates due to the cost of living, I.e arguing about putting on the heating.
- 53% stated that they did not know where to go to the University for financial support.
- 48% of respondents stated they considered skipping academic lessons or extra-curricular activities because they couldn’t afford to get to campus. Compared to last year only 31% stated they considered skipping academic lessons or extra-curricular activities.
- 79% of students stated the cost of living was preventing them from joining clubs, societies or engaging with volunteering.
- 73% stated they considered skipping meals due to not being able to afford food. Overall, 55% of students only eat two meals a day, 23% eat one meal a day and 17% eat three meals a day.
- The last two text boxes allowed students to describe what support they needed. Responses revolved around reducing the cost of transportation, an increase in the hardship, reduction in campus prices, extra financial support, a campus-based food bank and better travel bursaries for medic students.
Recommendations put forward to the Cost-of-Living steering group included:
- For the University and Student Union to lobby the government and other organizations for improved maintenance loans in line with inflation
- To freeze the cost of food and drink on campus and to guarantee a ‘cost of living’ meal.
- To set up a community pantry.
- To review processes and procedures to ensure that they take into consideration stress, anxiety and hardship around the cost of living.
- For the University to lobby First Bus to deal with Transporation pricing and examine the viability up a cheaper shuttle bus.
- Provision of free sanitary products on campus, microwave in university common spaces (I.e library) and more transparent job opportunities.
I have launched the second pulse survey to examine how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting students at the end of the semester where student loans tend to be at more of a pinching point. The results of this survey will be presented to the Cost-of-Living steering group and a brief overview of the results to senate in our Student Union update.
Concessions the University has offered:
- Increase the grant costs eligible to students as part of the hardship fund from 60% to 100%.
- Increasing the maximum allocation of the hardship fund to £2,500
- Increased the number of food vouchers available to students.
- Introduced more financial support and advice drop ins (such as money Mondays)
- Increased stipends for postgraduate research students – the minimum stipend is £17,668. There will be a 10% increase in stipends payments as part of our own scholarship programmes.
- Introduction to ‘Cost of living meals’ such as food items in central & the SU being frozen at £2.50. Also the introduction of coffee and a pastry for £1 in a morning and soup and a roll for £1.
- Subsidised bus travel via D&G and first bus routes. This reduces tickets from £4.50 to £3.15 and weekly tickets from £17 to £11.90. An annual ticket has been reduced from £349 to £300. To access this you will need to present your Keele card or enter your Keele email into the app. You currently need to request verification and provide the relevant details here.
- Free period product packs – these can be picked up from student services centre (Tawney building), Danise Coates building reception, Security (Darwin), sports centre, campus library, students’ union and the KPA clubhouse.
Alcohol and Drug Awareness week
Monday 7th November was the commencing of Drug and Alcohol awareness week, which looks to raise awareness about the impact of drugs and alcohol on students physical and mental health. During this week we had stalls for students to have discussions with staff around alcohol and how many units they consume. There was also the opportunity for students to try on our beer goggles (specially designed goggles that mimic intoxication through eyesight) and had the challenge of trying to carry out mundane tasks.
On our Athletic Union club night (Audio Takeover), I ran a stall to gather student data on reasons why students drink. Answers revolved around confidence, for fun and to be sociable, to celebrate their club victories, and mental health reasons such as anxiety and depression. This data has been provided to the drug and alcohol steering group.
On Wednesday 23rd November we hosted a 24-hour spinathon at Keele SU on the ground floor with the aim to raise money for Movember, a charity that works to tackle male physical and mental health inequalities. The spinathon was a success with participation from a range of students and SU staff members who took part in 30-minute spinning sessions. In total the spinathon raised £116.49 for Movember.
November is Islamophobia awareness month and this year we have put out a statement to reaffirm our joint commitment to eradicating Islamophobia from the Keele community as part of our NeverOk campaign.
The theme this year for Islamophobia awareness month was tackling denial of Islamophobia which is a widespread issue found both within our social and political spaces.
Sex worker guidance
I have been working on a guidance resource that will be hosted on the Student Unions website to support students who are involved in sex work. Due to the cost-of-living crisis more students may be pushed towards engaging in sex work and may not know much information on how to keep safe and the legalities around this.
The current guidance document informs students around the legalities of sex work, how to stay safe with links to external agencies which provide safety tips, information around paying taxes on earnings, University and professional body regulations which may impact student sex workers, and links to support services such as the hardship fund and charities in the local area.
Health & Wellbeing strategy review
I took part in the Health and Wellbeing strategy review as part of the Healthy University Groups review of the policy. I suggest that there should be a specific mention in the policy that focuses on supporting both students and staff with their mental health and any potential conditions they may have.
With the numbers of individuals with mental health conditions growing in society, the institution should focus on ensuring there is an approach to supporting both staff members that are employed and students who may struggle and require a whole university approach support system.
UK Disability History Awareness Month
The 16th of November marked the beginning of UK Disability History Month which is to provide a platform to celebrate the life and achievements of those with disabilities whilst raising awareness of the struggles, discrimination and inequalities faced by those both with visible and invisible disabilities.
As a Student Union, and as the Welfare & Diversity Officer, I continue to support students with disabilities to ensure that processes in place and campus facilities are as accessible as possible for those cohorts of students.
International student coordinator recruitment
I have been on the hiring panel for our new International Student Coordinator whose job will be to investigate the international students experience at Keele and provide some key insights in what we as a Union and the University can do to better support international students. This research is incredibly important with the Universities plan to increase international student numbers over the next decade.
Following a UGM motion I went around campus with Estates to ensure campus is well lit to ensure students feel safe on campus. As part of this consultation, we went around Lindsay where there was a number of locations pinpointed for streetlights and flood lights. We also went around Horwood near the KPA and spotted a few streetlights that needed replacing.
All new lighting fixtures and replacements will be in place for the start of next semester.