More than 50% of UK university students say they are thinking about dropping out of their course due to the ongoing cost of living crisis, new national research has revealed.
The independent UK Student Cost of Living Report 2023 found 68% of university students – a whopping 1.9 million – know at least one person who has left their course because of the financial crisis.
Meanwhile 57% – around 1.6 million – are considering leaving their own studies, compared to just under 40,000 students who dropped out in 2021/22.
If even half of those students were to leave, it could cost universities more than £40 billion in lost revenue and leave many young people facing an uncertain future, experts say.
The report also revealed around 1.5 million students (55%) have had to use a food bank while studying. Worryingly 87% – just under 2.5 million students – have skipped meals to save on food costs.
Many students are clearly feeling the impact of rising costs. However, a significant number also reported that they feel universities are not providing them with a safety net. Incredibly, 64% of students said they had not received any cost of living support from their university. One-in-five (20%) said they had been offered a financial incentive to remain on their course.
Love2shop, the UK’s number one gift card provider, already works with a number of universities to provide gift cards or contactless digital gift cards for students.
While these gift cards can be redeemed in more than 100 high street and online retailers, universities can also limit them to ensure emergency cost of living payments are only used with retail partners that specialise in essentials.
Just 14% of students said they had received a voucher or gift card as a gesture from their university to support their rising costs of living. That’s despite 49% saying universities could improve delivery of emergency support by using gift cards rather than a cash alternative.
Frank Creighton, Director of Business Development at Love2shop, said: “It’s really worrying to see how many students are considering dropping out or have already left because of the devastating financial impact of the increased cost of living. This should be a huge concern for universities.
“For many students this is their first time living independently away from home. They should be able to focus on their studies, not worry about skipping meals in order to pay their bills. This is also a potential problem for universities. Fewer students – or poor results due to the pressures students are under – will have a significant impact on university finances.
“This data indicates that while there is some support for students, they are still facing some severe challenges and difficult choices. We need to consider a smarter way to support them that makes a real difference to students while being cost effective and secure for universities.
“Gift cards are a practical solution. They allow academic institutions to support their students through these difficult times and ensure financial aid provided is spent on the intended necessities, be that food, clothing or textbooks. Our survey data shows students themselves would welcome this more secure, consistent approach to support.”