Support for University Students: Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:48 pm on 3rd February 2021.

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Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Secretary of State for Education 12:48 pm, 3rd February 2021

I thank my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield for raising this important issue. The Minister mentioned the £50 million that she announced yesterday but can she guarantee that it is entirely new money and not recycled from a previous cut to student support? Will she confirm that it amounts to around £26 for each student studying in England, and that in Wales the Labour Government have provided an additional £300 per student? Why does she think that students in England need less support than those elsewhere in the UK?

Students face challenges that the Government’s response has simply not begun to address. Many universities have done the right thing to support students with their accommodation costs, but can the Minister tell us what discussions she has had with private landlords about providing more support for students? Will she also give details of the support in place for postgraduate students?

With the majority of students learning remotely, digital access is more important than ever, but we know that many students lack such access. Can the Minister tell us how many students cannot access remote learning and what her Department is doing about that? What is she doing to make sure that all universities are making reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled students can continue their studies?

Finally, is the Minister confident that students who are struggling with their mental health can fully access all the support and services that they need? Yesterday, I met students who feel simply forgotten by the Government. Ministers’ incompetent response to the pandemic has robbed them of their university experience. They are isolated at home without support, while paying for accommodation that they are forbidden to use, and seeing their future placements, jobs and opportunities disappear. It is utterly devastating and utterly unjust, and the Minister must make it her priority to put that right.