Student bursaries dictate spending under new system
For any student, bursaries and loans are a ray of hope in an otherwise financially fraught time. However, whilst students may have previously been able to spend their ‘free’ money on anything they wished – such as clothes, holidays and food – a new system is set to change all this by dictating where students can shop with this cash.
According to a report in The Guardian, a scheme which has begun in the University of East London (UEL) sees students rewarded with a bursary for each semester which they complete. Yet, instead of simply handing over the cash to their students, the UEL scheme sees the money placed onto a card. Certain university shops then accept this as payment, allowing students to spend their gifted money on certain goods alone.
What to buy?
Whilst this may seem somewhat unfair to a number of students, in reality there are few who will turn their nose up at ‘free’ money – even if there are limitations on what it can be spent on. The report in The Guardian detailed how, despite the restrictions, a number of student essentials can still be purchased using the card.
One student who had received the progressive bursary had been able to use the money to top up their Oyster Card for travel to and from the university as well as purchasing books and using it to contribute towards the cost of a macbook. Parents and other sponsors can also add money to the card periodically and bursaries are assigned from the university after each completed semester.
Good or bad?
Opinions over this system are divided, with universities seeing it as an apt way to ensure the money they give to students is spent wisely, whilst other bodies feel it could be an excuse for universities to pass expensive bills, such as those for course materials, onto students.
Whilst the National Union of Students (NUS) supports the schemes attempt to encourage students to remain at university (in the three years since its introduction at UEL the number of student drop-outs has almost halved) they are cautious about the restrictions it imposes on those with difficult financial situations.
The President of the NUS, Liam Burns, explained that some students may need financial assistance with areas of their life which are not covered by the restrictions of the bursaries and expressed annoyance at the fact “[no] other section of society [are made to] jump through such hoops for public money”.
Despite these concerns, the popularity of the scheme is evident with a number of other establishments such as University of Chester and Southampton University offering a similar system or planning to integrate one in the future.