More students to access support as Durham Uni widen eligibility criteria for Durham grant

‘We will not leave our students stranded’


Durham University has widened the eligibility criteria for the Durham grant.

More students are now able to benefit from the scheme, allowing those with household incomes between £47,201 and £62,343, and everyone who gets a means-tested maintenance loan in England, to receive a £700 grant in the 2024/25 academic year, Palatinate reports.

In additional attempts to relieve the cost-of-living burden on students,  the university, has invested in schemes such as the Student Support Fund free breakfast clubs and the sale of surplus food from university catering on the Too Good to Go app.

Professor Tony Fawcett, the Acting pro-vice-chancellor for Education, said in an email to students, “we want to make it as easy as possible for all students to access the support they need”. Additionally, the university previously promised to increase all Durham Grant payments by nearly seven per cent.

Freya West, President of Durham’s The 93% Club, told Palatinate “an increase to the Durham Grant is a step in the right direction for this and it is positive to see the University taking social mobility more seriously”. The 93% Club is a part of a nationwide group striving to help state-school students “access excellent career opportunities” and a “fulfilling university experience” regardless of background.

Dan Lonsdale, Durham University’s Student Union president, told Palatinate : “I am glad the university had, at last, listened to our calls for greater financial support for students. I’m also pleased to have been able to secure a broader scope for the DGS, supporting a wider range of students, and a further £25,000 aimed at bolstering the support funds of colleges. We need to be clear, though, that this must be the start of increased support and not the end of it.”

San noted how “in the same breath as the DGS increase, we’ve also seen yet another increase in the price of college accommodation”. He went on to criticise the inequalities surrounding Durham’s housing situation. He said: “You cannot scholarship and grant your way to being an accessible and culturally progressive institution, this will only serve to entrench the division between those who can afford Durham and those who cannot. There has to be a fundamental shift in how the University treats and incorporates these students.”

College accommodation charges have risen by 6.3 per cent which the university have justified as being “in line with CPI-H as at the time of setting charges and is necessary to cover increasing costs to the university of providing accommodation and catering services”.

A university spokesperson told Palatinate: “We have worked extensively over the past year with partners including the Students’ Union, Durham County Council and local letting agents to seek to improve the housing market for students. This includes creating an online Housing Hub, Letting Agents Code of Practice and advocating for Additional Licensing of all private rental student accommodation by the local authority.”

The university spokesperson also said: “We will always support all our students, including those facing financial hardship. We will not leave our students stranded”.

The increase in college accommodation prices comes during a period of real terms cuts in maintenance loans and grants from all UK nations. The value of loans for next academic year has not yet been announced. However maintenance loans increased by 2.8 per cent for the current academic year despite the CPI over the same period being 10.8 per cent.

Changes varied across the UK with Northern Ireland receiving no increase, Wales receiving a 3.5 per cent increase and Scotland receiving a 4.5 per cent increase. Despite these increases all students have experienced negative real terms change.

According to Palatinate, rent makes up 45 per cent of student living costs and has increased by 11.1 per cent, followed by groceries, which has increased by 16.4 per cent. These increases are at rates faster than inflation in the wider economy and forces many students to seek alternative sources of income.

Universities UK has called for maintenance loans to be replaced by an increased maintenance grant. Real terms value of student loans has declined by 16.8 per cent since 2009, putting further pressure on students, families and universities to fill the gap left by maintenance loans.

The university told Palatinate: “In 2022/2023 more than 3,000 Durham students received some support from the DGS. Of these, more than 1,600 students received the maximum amount of £2,500.”

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