Student Life

“I don’t have much choice”: the Students skipping University to pay the bills

By Ben Jones, Kimberly Knowles

A typical day for Vikki, a MA Business Management student at Cardiff University, begins at 9am. With lectures until 4pm on an average day, there is little time before she has to prepare for an eight hour shift in nearby McDonalds at 5pm, where she will work until 1 o’clock the following morning.

Working 40 hours a week in one of the busiest fast food restaurants in the city, she has more than once slept through the following day’s worth of university studies. On a typical night she only manages to get a maximum of four to five hours of sleep.

Being an international student, she is unable to qualify for student finance. On top of this, she regularly sends money home to support her family in India: “I hardly have any spare for myself at the end of the day, and I don’t think that’s a big deal because I should be able to enjoy myself from time to time.”

‘Stuart’ (name changed by request) works in a branch of KFC in Cardiff. His story is similar, with the student and part-time worker “typically” getting back to his accommodation later than most on his course due to demanding hours.

He “doesn’t skive” lectures – in fact, he instead told us that he’s managed to make every last one – instead hiding “super naps” behind tinted sunglasses:“I don’t have much choice.”

Unfortunately, this is currently a reality for many. In a study by the Office of National Statistics undertaken from October to November in England last year (though released last month) it was revealed (with a count of 1,964 participants) that: around half (49%) of students felt they had financial difficulties, with 33% saying these were minor and 16% saying they had major financial difficulties.

Across Wales, the situation is just as dire. In November, a foodbank setup directly for students by Swansea University’s Student Union sold completely out of stock in just 30 minutes.

In a statement given to WalesOnline at the time, a NUS spokesperson said: “They’re having to choose between feeding themselves and carrying on with their education. Many can no longer afford to travel to placements and to their campuses, or they’re holding down multiple jobs to make ends meet. Inevitably, it is the students from the poorest backgrounds who are being disproportionately affected.”

A spokesperson from National Union of Students Wales said it had warned that dropouts “could increase” as post-16 education became less affordable and that more than a quarter of learners were living on £50 a month after paying rent and bills. ‘Forty-two per cent’ of learners were living on less than £100 a month and ‘ninety per cent’ of students had said the crisis was negatively impacting their mental wellbeing.

Cardiff University’s Money Advice Team, University of South Wales’ Money Advice Team and Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Financial Support Team were all approached for comment by The DiffDaff. Their responses will be added to the article as it updates.

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