The real cost of living in Canterbury

Photo by attndotcom

Photo by attndotcom

Many students at Kent pay far beyond their means in order to survive, according to an InQuire investigation on the cost of living at the University of Kent.

An InQuireLive poll of 132 students, asking how much students spend per month on rent, food and living expenses, found that the majority (33%) of those who took part, pay more than £500 each month.

If a student had monthly costs upwards of £500, and received the minimum maintenance loan 2014/5 from Student Finance England of £3,610 for the year, this would only support a student’s survival for seven months.

To sustain this lifestyle after the maintenance loan has been exhausted, and without any additional expenses such as supplies for courses, bills and nights out, students would need to work 24 hours each week if under 21 years of age, or 19 hours if over.

The highest level of minimum wage, for those between the ages of 18 and 20, is £5.13. For those aged 21 and over, the minimum wage is £6.50.

When living on campus as an undergraduate, the average cost for living in bed and bistro, en-suite accommodation, for 31 weeks only, is £6,298. This is almost twice the minimum maintenance loan given to students. Paying on a monthly basis, it would cost a student £524 for food and housing.

The 2013 University Living Costs Report produced by Kent Union found that 41% of students had a part time job at UKC, 43% had financial support from family and friends, and that 57% regularly worried about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses.

When asked by a separate poll on InQuireLive, “How many paid hours of work do you do a week?” it showed that the majority of respondents (64%) are not employed. For those who do work, most (15%) work between six and ten hours per week.

When speaking on the matter, second year student, Danielle Thompson, said: “If I lived off my maintenance loan alone, I would only be living on around £500 for the whole year. I’m under 21 and I have to work 18 hours (plus the odd bit of over time), each weekend to be able to live comfortably. Working at my job and my university work puts a lot of strain on me, so much that I’ve had to seek help with my stress levels as they’re now starting to affect my health.”

One method of easing the burden upon students may be through Kent Union (KU) introducing the Living Wage for its 750 staff.

The current Living Wage rate for outside of London is £7.85. This is a difference of £1.35 from the minimum wage rate for those over 21, and £2.67 for students between 18 and 20.

Kent Union responded to the Living Wage petition with a statement which stated that the Union employs 750 students per year, contributing £900,000 to student bank accounts. KU assured that this is designed with student employability and the easing of financial restraints in mind.

KU states that paying the Living Wage would lead to its bankruptcy in five years, with the University taking over KU’s commercial services (i.e. Essentials), and choosing not to employ students.

In spite of the current position of the Union against an increase in KU staff pay, it committed itself to future talks between the Union and University which may lead to the introduction of the Living Wage at Kent from August 2016.

The matter of the Living Wage is set to be an ongoing campaign at Kent, with the petition having gained 145 supporters so far. It you want to help protest against the cost of living in Canterbury, follow this link:


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