The UWE Students’ Union and the Money Advice and Funds Service have committed to a joint venture covering government cuts to the Access to Learning fund for the 2014/15 academic year.  The funds, totalling over £500,000, will be distributed to help cover the costs of university for those experiencing financial hardship.

The sum will be distributed to help cover the costs of university for those experiencing financial hardship // Credit: UWESU
The sum will be distributed to help cover the costs of university for those experiencing financial hardship // Credit: UWESU

The groups targeted by the fund are mature students, students with dependent children, single parents, students entering higher education from care, students from low income backgrounds, students with disabilities and final year undergraduate students. The fund will also be available to NHS supported students, unlike other UWE bursaries.

“Being a mature student with dependent children was very difficult” said Sarah Strange, now an NHS nurse. “Financial problems meant I constantly felt guilty about spreading myself too thinly, not being able to give 100% to my family, work, studying or friendships. A grant like this would’ve helped exponentially, especially now I can see the situation retrospectively.”

UWE Community and Welfare officer Will Anderson said “It’s great that UWE are covering the fund for this academic year! Due to policy passed at our 2014 AGM as a Students’ Union we are fully committed to lobbying the University to provide more financial support for students and we will be campaigning to ensure the University continues to cover the fund.”

The scheme is being introduced as a localised replacement for the aforementioned Access to Learning fund, which performed the same role in providing financial aid prior to being cut. The removal of the fund continues a worrying trend of education cuts under the Conservative government.

Scarlett Oliver, the VP Community and Welfare said “ It’s a pleasure to see UWE have shown their strong financial commitment to their students by agreeing to provide the £500,000 themselves, filling the gap left after the government pulled out of funding the Access to Learning Fund. The fund is a vital lifeline for so many students experiencing genuine financial hardship. UWE has again shown how student support remains a strong priority by ensuring the fund is available”

The UWESU will be campaigning to ensure the University continues to support all students, particularly post-graduate students who aren’t presently included, for the 2015/16 academic year.

By Will Pitts