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Student News

STS on BBC News: Are student food parcels a good idea?

Owen Burek - Save the StudentIn light of the news that Hull University Students' Union will be offering students an increased number of food parcels (70 this year), I was invited onto BBC News this week to share my views.

Hull University Union (HUU) have announced that the amount of students suffering from hardship has increased by 54% over the past four years.

In fact, the Union have stated that they were contacted a total of 2,300 times last year by students who were concerned about money management.

The main reason behind introducing this scheme in Hull is the current lack of part-time jobs available to new students in the region.

The student food parcel idea is by no means new, similar schemes have been trialled at other British universities in the past decade but their ultimate success is somewhat questionable.

Whilst I of course fully support wider improvements to student welfare and the good intentions of HUU, it does seem to me that food parcels are a little extreme and only apply to a small minority.

Many students across the UK are finding it increasingly hard to fund their way through university (we're talking living costs, not fees) but I have a number of concerns with food parcels in particular.

The focus is wrong

I would much rather see the money and energy spent on making much-needed improvements in personal finance education alongside better access to, and information on existing funding which is available to university students who need it. And that's one of the main goals of Save the Student!.

Shouldn't students be trusted?

In a recent survey on student financial control by the NUS (April 2012), two-thirds of students said they would prefer a cash bursary over any other type of support. Food parcels were not recommended once, with transport and rent support being more of a strain.

So why not offer cash over food parcels? These parcels must take quite a bit of time, money and logistics to arrange, especially as an ongoing scheme.

Is it an issue of trust? Most students are fully responsible adults and should be treated as such.

Danger of putting off more applicants

The idea of food parcels conjure up images of refugees and front-line troops. Well, these groups don't tend to have great access to supermarkets and more importantly are in a more desperate position than the vast majority of students in this country.

Media stories like this one on student food parcels have a serious potential to deter more students from applying for university if they get the wrong impression that aid such as this is now the reality of university life.

There's already enough misunderstanding about the tuition fee hike coming in this year, it's important now that the correct information is visible to young people thinking of applying for university.

How would you feel about food parcels at your university? Would you prefer cash?

If you want to learn more about reducing the cost of university, download our free money cheat sheet.


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