Arguably the most pressing issue on a university student’s experience right now is the Cost of Living crisis, which we know for many UAL students has spiralled out of control and had a huge impact.
In October, we launched one of our largest research projects to date to find out how the crisis is impacting our students and what more we can do. Today we presented our findings and will be working with the university to implement its recommendations.
In the meantime, the Sabbatical Officers have made it a key priority this year to help ease the burden of the crisis, by focusing on making basic everyday items free to our students who need them the most. Below are just of the ways that we have been helping; as we continue through the academic year, we will continue to evaluate and create ways that we can support students during this hard time.
Cost of Study
The Cost of Study has long been an importance issue for UAL students and these have understandably been impacted by rising costs and supply issues that have occurred making it harder to find free or low-cost art materials in London.
In 2019 Arts SU conducted research into the impact of the Cost of Study which, amongst other recommendations, led UAL to introduce guidelines focused produce on reducing the costs of study for students through course and assessment design. In September 2022 these guidelines were updated and instated as formal policy.
More directly, the Sabbatical Officers have been supported cost of study prevention initiatives such as the installation of UAL Re-Use Units across campuses as we are continuing to support the CSM Swap Shop events which were launched last year. These events led by the CSM and Student Communities Officers see donated arts supplies given away to students who need them the most.
Period Poverty refers to the inaccessibility of affordable period products to people who menstruate. For a number of years now, the Sabbatical Officer team have built on the work of various student campaigners and CSM Changemakers to advocate the importance of introducing free period products at UAL.
While a trial as CSM was due to start this academic year, following lobbying and discussions for wider implementation, the University agreed to extend plans to include all UAL sites, improved distribution units, and a wider range of period products.
Although this delayed the initial roll-out until early January, Arts SU put in place interim measures to make products available until the new distribution units could be installed. Minna (CSM Officer) championed and advocated for the installation of these units and high-quality, ethical, and eco-friendly products which are now being rolled out across campuses.
You can read more about the journey of this project in our blog post released in November.
It became apparent during the early stages of our research into the impact of the Cost of Living crisis that some UAL students are in circumstances where they are skipping meals or relying on nutritionally poor meals. Further, given the ongoing pressures on students' incomes and savings, these concerns are likely to only increase as the academic year progresses, particularly for those who rely on maintenance and bursary funding.
During term 1 we trialled Food Parcel and Evening Meal events, exploring how we can begin helping students on low incomes to maintain an adequate and nutritious diet. Whilst not designed to provide long-term ongoing support, the initiative has been designed to do what we can to help reduce the pressure we know many are experiencing.
Targeting students in receipt of the UAL Bursary, our Food Parcel scheme was initiated at CSM King's Cross and Chelsea to bring students staple ingredients for cooking meals at home, along with some fresh produce and essential toiletries. We also separately organised an Evening Meal event at LCC to provide a quality hot meal during dinnertime in a communal space.
We’re currently evaluating valuable feedback from these events which will help us to decide how we can continue offering food support throughout the academic year in a way that we can flexibly suit the changing needs of students.