Queen’s University Belfast is to spend about £8m making cost-of-living payments to students and most staff.
ost of the university’s 25,000 students will receive £150, although about 3,600 students from lower-income families will receive a higher payment of £400. About 3,000 staff – apart from senior managers – will receive between £500 and £750.
Emma Murphy, head of Queen’s Student Union, told the BBC the winter months of November and December will be “particularly tough” with payments not set to land until January 2023.
The money is intended to go towards helping students and staff cope with the rising cost of fuel and food due to the high cost of living. Inflation is increasing at nearly its fastest rate in 40 years. The university recently declared a “critical incident” due to rises in the cost of living.
Ms Murphy said the action by the university comes about as a result of “strong lobbying” from the Student’s Union.
“We are delighted to be able to tell students this support is going to be coming to them,” she said.
But more needs to be done to help students, she said. “Loan payments typically come in January, so there is more lobbying to come in terms of programmes. We at the union will be offering lots, including a free breakfast during those times.”
The support will target the areas students worry about most, she said – with the three most prominent issues being “fuel, food and the cost of rent.”
The university’s vice-chancellor Prof Ian Greer told the BBC he was “very concerned” about the cost-of-living pressures on students and staff.
“There’s no doubt that fuel in particular has been a problem across the board, not just for our student population but our staff also,” he said.
“In addition the cost of food is also increasing and that causes general hardship for students who are on a very modest income in any event.”
He said the support to be students would be best targeted after Christmas.
“Students have largely just received their student loan support funding, and we felt the time of greatest need would be just after the Christmas period,” he replied.
Students will also not have to pay any fees to graduate in 2022/23, while all library fines will also be waived and any student discipline fines halved.
Ms Murphy said she believes the university has offered support to student wellbeing by offering resources to cope with mental health issues.
“Last year we conducted a survey called Omni, and that told us that financial stress is one of the biggest impacters on their mental health, which is being exacerbated by the current situation…we hope we can really show students we are there for them.”