Cost of Living Update – November 2022
In an email to all staff and students today (Friday 4 November), Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE, St Andrews Students’ Association President, Juan Pablo Rodríguez, and Students’ Association Director of Wellbeing and Equality, Emma Craig, outlined a package of measures designed to ameliorate the effects of the cost of living and energy crisis.
Dear Students and Colleagues,
We are writing to update you on steps which the University and the Students’ Association have been taking to support our students, staff, and local community during the cost of living crisis.
Some of these measures are already in place, while others are in development, and will be rolled out as they are finalised. Please check your University email regularly for updates.
The cost of living and energy crisis will affect us all in different ways. Whilst the University and the Students’ Association cannot solve the crisis, there are steps we can take as institutions, and as one community, to provide practical support, financial help, and information where it is most needed.
The following measures and schemes have been brought forward by our Cost of Living Taskforce, which comprises students and staff.
We know that the huge increases in fuel costs have impacted the budgets of our staff and students, and are a concern for many who have to travel to study or work.
The University has negotiated a special deal with the bus company Stagecoach. From mid-November, we will be offering everyone with a st-andrews.ac.uk email address the opportunity to purchase Stagecoach tickets subsidised by the University at a 75 per cent reduction of normal price.
This will run initially as a six-month pilot to assess take-up and costs.
The scheme will offer substantially reduced travel costs to all our students and staff across a large area of east-central Scotland. It addresses some cost of living concerns, will reduce our carbon footprint, decrease car use and congestion in St Andrews, and aligns with the objectives of the Sustainable St Andrews theme of the new University Strategy.
Students and staff will be able to sign up to the offer by downloading the Stagecoach app to a smartphone, and logging on using their st-andrews.ac.uk address. You do not have to own a smartphone to access a subsidised ticket, however.
The offer does not apply to people under 22 or over 60 who already qualify for free bus travel via the National Entitlement scheme.
Full details of this initiative will be published shortly.
Money Advice and Discretionary Funds
We are boosting the amount of money available in our student discretionary funds to over £1.5 million this year. Our Money Advice Team in Student Services are experts on helping students access financial advice and support. You can contact them at [email protected], by phone 01334 462720 or in person at the Advice and Support Centre (ASC).
If you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student, this money exists to support you with living and study costs. It is not charity or a handout, but one of the ways in which St Andrews tries to ensure all our students can fulfil their potential. You can apply for funding whenever you need it, and as many times as may be necessary.
Generous donations from our worldwide family of alumni will also help add to the discretionary funds available, and the University and Students’ Association are working jointly on fundraising initiatives. If you are in a position to make a donation and wish to support the University’s area of greatest need fund, you can do so via the University website.
Typically, around 2000 students are supported by our Money Advice Team each year, but we anticipate more may look for advice and assistance in the months ahead.
We are working with the Careers Centre to highlight details of various resources, bursaries, and support available relating to employment, including part-time work and internships, and we are exploring additional drop-in or information sessions relating to securing part-time work.
Financial Support for Postgraduate Students
We have pledged to uplift our own postgraduate research (PGR) stipends in line with the recently confirmed national uplift to UKRI stipends, and are reviewing provision and support for other postgraduate students not covered by the UKRI or University uplifts.
In addition to the established support funds mentioned above, we are working to establish a dedicated discretionary fund to support postgraduate research students. Further details of this fund will be made available shortly.
Scholarships and Bursaries
We are reviewing our existing scholarship and bursary provision to ensure, where possible, that these awards recognise increases in the cost of living, and changes in student circumstances during the academic year.
Financial Support for Staff
We recognise the extraordinary pressures which the current crisis has placed on individual and family budgets.
A £500 cost of living payment was made to all core salaried staff in September. We have increased our Living Wage rates of pay for our staff on lower grades. These took effect in the October pay run, backdated to 1 September.
Rates of pay are subject to collective national bargaining. St Andrews continues to advocate for settlements which are fair to staff, and sustainable for institutions.
Cost of Living Guide
The Students’ Association has researched and produced a comprehensive guide which includes links to sources of support, advice, discounts, and practical tips for managing budgets and staying warm. Primarily intended for students, this in-depth guide can also be a really useful resource for staff and the wider public.
All cafés in University buildings are now offering a subsidised 50% discount on hot and cold meal deals. The University’s Accommodation Conferences and Events (ACE) team are also investigating several low cost/free meal options including ‘Breakfast in a Bag’ offering free fruit and porridge, and a ‘Take it Away, Eat Today’ option offering free food which is at or close to its use-by date.
We are working with existing groups (student-run and part of the broader St Andrews community), including Transition St Andrews, The Tree (food cooperative), and St Andrews Environmental Network to promote sustainable, lower cost, and lower waste options, as well as providing guidance on energy efficiency and more sustainable behaviours.
Our University Community Fund (UCF) will shortly invite bids from local organisations, individuals and charities with a specific focus on projects across the Kingdom which are directly helping local people during the cost of living and energy crisis.
The University Community Fund was launched in early 2020 recognising the importance the University places on supporting grassroots organisations and projects, and the role they play in local society. The fund quickly came into its own during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing vital financial support to community groups across Fife during an uncertain time.
Since then, the Fund has provided more than £150,000 to nearly 100 groups and organisations across the length and breadth of Fife that deliver tangible benefits for local communities.
The UCF will make awards to projects supporting those most in need in the Fife community during the cost of living crisis. If you know of any initiatives which might benefit from UCF support, please encourage them to visit the UCF web pages and consider an application.
We are taking steps to ensure that all university buildings are open to all staff and students to allow and encourage the use of communal warm spaces. We are creating dedicated web pages with an interactive map of our estate showing available communal and study spaces, shower rooms, and common kitchen areas.
These are samples of the types of initiative our Cost of Living Taskforce is developing, in challenging circumstances.
University and Students’ Association budgets are being squeezed very hard by the rise in energy prices and cuts in wider public spending, and the pressure on public funding will increase during the long forecast recession in the UK.
By working together, however, we can be creative within our existing resources to try to increase support in the areas of greatest need.
Further updates will follow in due course.
We welcome feedback and ideas. You can submit these to our Cost of Living Taskforce using this online form.
Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Juan Pablo Rodríguez
President, St Andrews Students’ Association
Director of Wellbeing and Equality, St Andrews Students’ Association