Student disadvantage amplified by COVID-19

Imagine you’ve lost your part-time job, which enabled you to pay your term-time rent. Perhaps you are a young carer, and you can’t leave home because the parent you are supporting has been shielding. Or one of your parents was furloughed and then made redundant, and won’t be able to help you financially if you choose to go to university.

These are the very real issues faced by some of our current and potential students, whose dreams may be shattered by not being able to attend university or complete their studies.

There are many ways students are being supported through the current crisis. This includes helping those with all the potential and dedication of their peers, who simply don't have the financial or practical support needed to get to university, and helping those hit by unexpected hardship to make sure they can complete their studies.

The University has a strong tradition of helping the most able students to access education, whatever their situation. Our Pathways to Birmingham programme has a number of distinctive offerings, which all provide 17- and 18-year-old students with an insight into university study and graduate employability, support with the university application process and enable successful transition to higher education.

One of the pathways is the popular Access to Birmingham programme, which supports students who have little or no experience of higher education to discover what university involves. It is a truly diverse scheme, with a long history of welcoming students with a wide variety of social and cultural backgrounds to campus. Always popular, demand has been higher than ever this year, and as the economic instability continues, the need for this life-changing scheme continues to grow.

The Student Support Fund has completely saved me. It's unbelievable how much difference it has made to my student experience and mental health. Thank you again.

Student support recipient

This year, an unprecedented number of students have needed urgent financial assistance from the Student Hardship Fund, generously supported by alumni and community supporters including Santander. Three times as many applications for help as in previous years were received, and grants were available for between £200 and £2,500.

Two-thirds of students are reliant on part-time jobs in cafes, pubs and shops that may have shut over lockdown, and many are reliant on support from parents who may no longer be in a position to give. A huge thank you to more than 400 alumni and friends who responded to our crisis appeal, your generous contributions made a huge difference.

With applications to the Pathways to Birmingham programme also higher than ever before, COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on students, with the biggest impact on those most vulnerable. With uncertainty and change likely to remain for students for some time to come, this support is needed now more than ever.

Thank you to everyone who donated to support students through our e-appeal in October. Find out more about how to help support students through a gift or by becoming a mentor at www.birmingham.ac.uk/action