The Investigations team has started a new inquiry into student poverty and the impact of the cost of living crisis. As part of this new project, we will release a series of interview articles to provide insight into the struggles faced by students at different universities. Impact’s Alex Paszkowicz had the chance to interview Ruby Prior, a second-year Psychology student at the University of Manchester.
The interview with Ruby was valuable in understanding the difficulties presented by our nation’s economic climate. Although representing the scale of financial hardships of an entire student body through a single interview is a considerable task, the interview with Ruby highlighted some key issues. We have found similarities between her student experience and the rising economic pressure throughout our student community.
I began my interview by determining Ruby’s financial situation concerning her sources of income. She concluded that living off her student loan alone makes it challenging to keep up with the social life and activities customary to the university experience. Combining her loan with her arranged overdraft is ‘just enough to live and have a social life’.
She works as a childminder throughout the week to accompany her student loan but concedes that her hours are ‘not enough at the moment’, so she is ‘trying to find another job’. She states that she could buy more than the ‘minimum amount of food’ with a secure job. And she would also ‘not have to not go out at the end of term’ to save money.
Directing the conversation to her University, Ruby expressed some positive initiatives the University of Manchester has taken to relieve economic stresses. She mentioned the nine million pounds the University of Manchester has dedicated to supporting students. Every full-time student received £170. Ruby stated that this has ‘really helped’.
As well as monetary support, her University’s student union has schemes which provide free food. For example, ‘every Thursday they give out a bag of food to make dinner’ and ‘free breakfasts on a Wednesday morning’. Similarly, the University of Nottingham’s student union provides a free breakfast every weekday from 8 am to 10 am.
Moving on to support for mental health, Ruby describes a correlation between the University of Manchester’s over-capacitated counselling system and the cost of living. ‘There definitely is support there, but I think there are so many students that feel that and also need counselling for other reasons’. She states that you may be waiting for ‘multiple weeks’ for a space to open for you to receive mental health support.
Similarly to student protests during the Coronavirus pandemic, students at the University of Manchester have recently protested against the University, demanding cheaper rent. Ruby believes seeing her peers take over four university buildings ‘was really interesting to see’. She claims that although students recognise that lecturers ‘have had a big cut to their pension pay’, she is missing ’18 days’ of her paid education due to strikes this semester.
Although strike action – lecturer and student alike – is a contentious topic, it is clear that the cost of living crisis has affected academia in multiple ways. Students face a lower standard of living due to their financial pressure. Although there are support measures in place, many still suffer. Ruby’s interview provided an interesting insight into coping with the rise in the cost of living as a student at the University of Manchester.
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