The Cost of Living crisis is something that is impacting us all.

In almost every aspect of life costs are going up while access to money isn’t increasing.

While we can’t change the national crisis on our own, we want to do everything we can to help you get through the coming months and succeed at the University of Essex.

With this in mind, over the past few weeks the University and Students’ Union have been working urgently together to create a package of support.

Today we’re announcing the following steps that we will take to help support you and every student at Essex during this unprecedented time:

  • Substantially increasing the financial support made available to Essex students through our hardship fund. Last year, the fund provided students with support totalling £489,000; in response to the Cost of Living crisis we are expanding this year’s total funding available for students to £1.5 million. Applications for 2022-23 will open on 31 October 2022.
  • Widening the range of support available through the fund. The Cost of Living crisis is affecting almost every part of student life so we’re significantly increasing what our hardship fund covers to include assistance with travel costs, course costs, childcare and the cost of joining or participating in the SU’s clubs and societies.
  • Making our financial support more accessible to all students that need it. We recognise that for many students the thought of applying for financial support may be seen as a source of shame or a personal failing, when in fact the challenges we are facing in this Cost of Living crisis are widespread and unavoidable. With this in mind we will be re-launching our hardship fund to make sure that it is more widely understood, relevant and accessible to any student that is struggling.
  • Reducing the cost of essential groceries for Essex students. To help counteract rising supermarket costs the Students’ Union will provide opportunities for you to buy a range of essential basics at significantly reduced prices. The Union will use its network of retail suppliers to buy key items in bulk and then make these available to students at cost price, helping to put money back in your pocket. This will be accessible from the Colchester campus.
  • Helping to bring down the cost of food by subsidising cheap hot meals. We want to make sure that all students have access to affordable hot food options especially as the weather gets colder, so we’ll be introducing a daily hot meal for £2 in our on-campus food outlets. This will be available immediately on the Colchester campus and we are aiming for November/December for our Southend Campus.
  • Providing opportunities for students to come together over free food. As the temperature drops, the Students’ Union will be running a weekly ‘Warm Welcome’ event offering free food in different warm spaces as well as the opportunity to meet other students and share experiences and tips for managing the Cost of Living crisis that we all face. This will be available in Colchester only.
  • Promoting the wide range of free activities and events available to students. To help make sure students have access to activities where cost isn’t a barrier, we will be showcasing a wider range of free events from meet-ups and art and crafts to cinema screenings and nights out.
  • Removing the cost of resit fees. To ensure that your financial situation will not impact on your progression, we will not charge fees in 2022-23 to students for compulsory reassessment.
  • Paying the Voluntary Living Wage for University and SU student jobs. The University and the Students’ Union employ more than 1000 students across our campuses. It has been our aspiration to ensure that people are paid a fair wage for the important work they do. As such, and to realise this aspiration sooner, we’re fast tracking the uplifting of students’ wages for those that work for the University or the Students’ Union. This Living Wage increase will be introduced from January 2023.

Given the scale of the challenge that we face and the speed in which we’ve had to move in order to provide this support, it means that not everything that we have announced today will be ready by the time you finish reading this message. However, as soon as it is operationally possible to implement the measure it will be done. Further details around the new and existing support can be found online.

Our students come from many different walks of life, with a myriad of individual challenges and circumstances. Whether you’re an international student that can only work a certain number of hours while studying; a mature student that has caring responsibilities to sit alongside your time in lectures; or if you’re an undergraduate starting University for the first time and have moved far away from home. Whatever your version of university life looks like outside of class hours, we are going to do everything we can, together, to support you. This is not something that you’re facing alone.

If you would like to speak with someone, confidential wellbeing and mental health support is available to everyone in our community. Please contact our Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity team.

We’re looking forward to working on this together for you, and with you.