A new hardship fund will be available next year for students struggling with their rent payments, Union President Dave Keenan has announced.
The new ‘Accommodation Enhancement Fund’ will have a budget of £125,000 for the next academic year, and will act as a subsidy of total rent costs.
Rather than providing students with additional income, the fund will instead be paid directly to accommodation.
Applications for the fund will be means-tested; however the Students’ Union has yet to divulge further details on what this testing will involve.
Keenan said: “This fund is designed to benefit students from poorer backgrounds and will be the first time we have rent subsidies.
“This fund is ground-breaking and innovative and to the best of our knowledge, no one else seems to be doing this. It is effectively a housing benefit.
“The deal we have struck with the university is the biggest victory on rent we have had to date and the Enhancement Fund will make lasting changes to those who need it.
“It will make the university more accessible to poorer students and it is the first step on our way to securing further rent subsidies.”
Figures received from the university show that the existing discretionary fund of £50,000, which was secured by then-Union President Andrew Kinnell, has only seen about half of its budget spent.
Receiving an average of £911 each, only 31 students have applied for the fund so far – with 22 applications successful and the other 9 still pending as of February 13, 2017.
Unlike in previous years, students will have the option to apply for the new fund during their application for accommodation, a move which the Union President says will help inform students that the funding is available.
However, even if the £125,000 fund was used up in its entirety, going by the 2016/17 average funding, it would only be able to assist a total of 137 students.
Going by figures obtained on university accommodation occupancy, Brig calculates there are 2673 students presently in uni-owned facilities – meaning the new fund would only help around 5% of students.
The Union’s own Big Rent Survey, the results of which were released in January this year, found that 26% of students in uni accommodation are left with less £50 a month after paying for essentials, while 17% of those questioned said they were left with nothing.
On the future of rent campaigning, Keenan told Brig: “The way forward is getting more money for this fund to increase the capacity for rent subsidies.
“The work we have done this year has opened the door for future sabbs to make even greater strides toward more affordable accommodation.”
Keenan also said that the Big Rent campaign has been shortlisted for the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland ‘Campaign of the Year’ and that NUS UK are interested in adopting Stirling’s model for their own practice.
“We have done a substantial amount of work and have made greater inroads than other institutions,” he added.
He believes the new fund will make Stirling University’s accommodation “amongst the most affordable in Britain”.