[FROM THE PAPER] STUDENTS QUESTION THE UNIVERSITY’S MASTERPLAN SPENDING AFTER CUTS TO STUDENT SUPPORT FUNDS

Mark Bircher - Reporter

Image: Flickr (University of Central Lancashire)

UCLan fails to provide for students despite £200m investment in university ‘masterplan’.

At the University of Central Lancashire, the university’s Access to Learning Fund is a crucial part of university life for many students, helping them to remain in Higher Education as well as safeguarding them in times of financial hardship.

It can be claimed by any student in urgent need of financial help and is organised by the Harris Bursary Fund Panel. UCLan prides itself on its successes in widening participation to Higher Education and encouraging students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and the Access to Learning Fund is a major contribution in helping to deliver for these students.

However, in recent years the university has been unable to provide for all of those who have applied for financial help. In 2014, the Access to Learning Fund was able to support 80% of students who applied for additional financial support to help them during their studies. However, for a number of years the budget has not been increased, remaining at approximately £700,000 and now fails to provide for the growing number of UCLan students in need of support.

Students are already struggling financially
Students are already struggling financially

In light of expanding student adversity, new government initiatives and increasing tuition fees – which could still increase further depending on the results from the teaching Initiatives framework – the Access to Learning Fund can now only stretch to provide for 65% of those who apply for the grant, a percentage that is decreasing year upon year due to lack of investment, despite increasing need. As a result of the drastic fall in numbers of those who can now successfully gain emergency funding in times of severe desperation, The Pulse begins to call into question the spending preferences of the university.

In February 2015, the university first unveiled its plans to invest £200 million to transform the campus, in which it planned to entirely redesign much of the heart of campus. The ‘Masterplan’, as it has been appropriately named, is a huge investment by the university and will no doubt have a positive effect on the student experience. On the other hand, it will take up to 10 years before it all comes to completion and the transformation seems to not benefit current students on the Preston campus, instead causing; loud disruptions, inconveniences and costing a lot of money.

Meanwhile, despite massive investments in the ’Masterplan’ current students are persistently struggling. It is estimated a mere £170,000, just a fraction of the £200m investment, could allow for the Access to Learning Fund to once again accommodate for 80% of those who apply.

A policy, which is sure to be welcomed by current students who seem to have been overlooked by the university prioritising future students over current. A spokesperson for the University said, “the university remains fully committed to supporting students in financial hardship through a range of support and bursary initiatives.”

They went on to say,

“The University’s Campus Masterplan project spans 10 years but we are determined that the first facilities created will substantially benefit existing students. Indeed, our exciting new £8.15 million Student Social Spaces project, which will open for current UCLan students in the Autumn of 2017.”

About Joe Young 316 Articles
Joe Young has been involved with student media for a very long time now, holding posts within The Pulse, and Pulse Radio, as well as the predecessor of The Pulse, Pluto. He is currently Politics Editor of The Pulse, and Head of News of Pulse Radio. In 2016, he won the Media Award for Best Article for his coverage of the Fishergate Shopping Centre bomb scare.

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