I hope you have all had a good and restful break. Unfortunately the cost of living crisis is still pertinent in our lives. At the SU we have been working hard to help students manage this difficult time as inflation continues to rise. Here are the updates on what we have been doing so far and what our next steps are for this campaign:
Firstly, we are happy to announce that the cost of living report for postgraduate students is finally completed. This report provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges that postgraduate students face regarding the cost of living, such as accommodation, food, and other expenses. I have also written a qualitative report looking at the text responses to the survey in more detail. This was also circulated to committees.
We are also pleased to share that UKRI maintenance rates, Cambridge Trust Maintenance rates, and other funders who have pegged their funding to UKRI rates have increased by an average of 13%. This increase is a significant step towards supporting postgraduate students' financial stability and alleviating some of the challenges that they face.
The Cost of Living Report for postgraduate students has been sent to various committees to ensure that the report's recommendations are implemented and the postgraduate maintenance rates for 24/25 have been set. These have been set looking at the 50th percentile spend and projections in the report, meaning that people will have a practical and truthful idea of what it will be like to live in cambridge, and that future funding will aim to match projections (compared to previous projections that under represent the cost of living in Cambridge as a postgraduate).
The committees the report has been discussed at include:
Furthermore, we have addressed the issues of late payments in departments, which has been of concern for some postgraduate students who were not paid on time at the beginning of the year. Postgraduate students will now be paid by their departments if there is a delay in their PhD funding and department administrators have been briefed by both the UKRI and by the University on the procedure for this.
We have also conducted a wide survey from Russell group student unions, including Cambridge SU, to gather insights and data on the cost of living for university students across the country. This survey has now been published into this report and has gained media coverage, furthering our lobbying power to the university and government to increase funding during the cost of living crisis.
Moreover, we have made it easier for postgraduate students to access hardship funding directly through the university. The cap has also increased from £2000 to £3500 that students can apply to. This move is critical in ensuring that postgraduate students receive the financial support they need as soon as possible.
We have also discussed the postgraduate cost of living issue at college forums, where we have talked about key initiatives that colleges do to make life a bit easier, such as free food events and subsidised catering.
Finally, I have been working with the postgraduate funding office to update the postgraduate funding portal with new key features that make it easier to access and manage funding. I’d encourage you to use this useful tool to search for funding.
Despite these significant steps towards addressing the postgraduate cost of living issue, there is more to do. We are currently arranging a meeting with Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, to talk about the government's role in student funding. This meeting is crucial in ensuring that the government is doing enough to support postgraduate students financially.
Moreover, we are planning to have a meeting with CUDAR (Cambridge University Development and Alumni Relations) to discuss how we can get more funding for Masters students.
Bureaucratic systems move slowly, that is the frustrating truth of things. This is made all the more worrisome when it is your finances on the line that directly impact your ability to live and work in Cambridge. I hope this blog has provided some reassurance and useful links to what we are doing. If you need personal support and advice, please do not hesitate to contact our Student Advice Service.