Supporting our students through the cost-of-living crisis and how we can help moving forward

Posted in: food and drink, money advice, students' union, support

For my latest blog about support for our students, I found out about the different initiatives the university and SU have collaborated on to support students through the cost-of-living crisis, how we as staff can help support, and plans for the future. It was also a useful reminder that support and advice for our students and staff does not pause over the summer.

I spoke with Andy Leahy, Student Money Advice Team Leader in Student Support, and Kevin McCormick, Head of Commercial Operations in Campus Services.

A jar filled with copper coins

Cassie: Thanks both for joining me to discuss the ongoing challenges around cost of living for our students and how we are helping from a university perspective. Could you firstly explain your role at Bath and what a typical day looks like for you? 

Andy: Hi Cassie, lovely to be here today to talk about Student Money Advice and the work we do. Firstly, my role as Student Money Advice Team Lead involves overseeing a number of funds, the two main funds being the Hardship Fund & Short Term Loan Scheme as well as providing advice and guidance to students about their funding entitlement ensuring they receive everything they are entitled to. We also advise students on budgeting, top money saving tips and looking at ways to improve their overall financial capability to ensure that by the time of graduation they are able to use this vital life skill in the wider world. No two days are alike which keeps the role interesting, as you can be involved in detailed case work one day, then mapping out and developing an intervention the next ensuring the service stays relevant.

Kevin: I’m the Head of Commercial Operations for the Campus Services department. The key areas my role covers are the campus hospitality outlets, conferences, events, and the summer schools that we have visit us each year. All these help generate valuable income for the University, which in turn allows us to keep our beautiful campus and accommodation well maintained, amongst other things.

A typical day for me could involve meeting with the Hospitality teams to discuss new menus; our procurement team to discuss supplier pricing. Working alongside our sales and events team to ensure the smooth running of the many external conferences we host each summer; meeting with the international language schools to help plan their summer visits; or working with other staff across the University on projects such as the Sustainable Food Commitment.

CW: That’s great, thanks both. We are focussing on the increases in cost of living over the last two years. This has impacted both students and staff, but from a student support perspective what has been your focus the last two years?

AL: The last two years have been challenging for both staff and students alike. The rise in the cost of living has been a key feature in the 23/24 SU Top Ten, and my focus has been on co-ordinating the University’s cost of living support, helping to implement a wide range of different measures to promote ways students can save money on everyday costs. We have also been busy publicising key messages and running events across the University about what students should do if they are struggling with their finances, by highlighting available financial support alongside ways they can improve their money management skills and enhance their financial capability via Blackbullion.

KM: Our focus has mainly been on providing students with affordable food and drink on campus. We’re aware that so many costs have risen for students, especially when it comes to food. Yet eating properly is so important if you’re hard at work studying, have exams or training at the Sports Village.

Campus Services has introduced several initiatives to help support the cost-of-living challenges when it comes to food and drink. One of the most popular has been our £1.50 value meals, which are available in all seven outlets, all day. Since launching them in 2022, we’ve sold a huge 158,516 value meals. The Community Larder area outside Fresh has also been a success, as students can help themselves to all sorts of items there, for free. It also helps fight food waste, which we’re always keen to minimise.

There are over 200 price locks in Fresh and The Market too, with 70 prices the same or cheaper than Tesco (just keep an eye out for the padlock icon around the stores). You can also get 10% off in Fresh with your TOTUM card, to help reduce the price of your grocery shop.

CW: Andy, as your team administer the University’s Student Hardship Funds, have you seen a big increase in applications the last 2 years? 

AL: Yes, that’s right, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of students applying to the Hardship Fund with an overall doubling in numbers in each of the past two years. Over 50% of applicants have specifically cited the rise in the cost of living as being the reason they are experiencing financial hardship and are applying to the Fund. Other themes we have seen include, changes to families’ financial circumstances impacting the support upon which some students rely, as well as final year students in particular wishing to prioritise their studies over part time work. This level of demand has prompted the University to double its Hardship Fund provision and increase our staffing resource over the past two years to help administer and manage these demands.

CW: Kevin, I’ve heard some interesting initiatives from Campus Services colleagues about cost-of-living support for students but also helping them build a sense of community. Could you tell me more?

KM: We work closely with the ResLife team to run a variety of guided cooking sessions for new students when they move into our accommodation. As well as providing simple, cost-effective recipes, it also allows them to meet others, make friends and help find their community. These sessions have been extremely popular, and we look forward to offering more this September. These book out very quickly, and we are looking forward to planning the next sessions for the new academic year.

A group of students cooking together

CW: It is amazing to hear about all the different things that have been setup the last two years. I wonder if you have any advice for other staff if a student raises a concern about money or funding? 

AL: Yes, of course. Any staff member who is approached by a student experiencing concerns about their finances, can signpost to Student Money Advice in Student Support as we run a series of appointments and drop-ins throughout the week. Students and staff can also email the team at  as well as visit the Student Money Advice webpage which provides a range of information on available funding, including postgraduate and international student finances, placement funding, budgeting, scams, student parents and graduating students.

While we are discussing this topic, it is also important to think about our own roles and responsibilities and what we can do generally to minimise costs for others. With that in mind, we have produced a Departmental Cost of Living Good Practice Guide with useful tips on how Departments can also assist students in managing their costs. It would be great if Heads of Academic Departments and Directors of Studies could consider this guidance going forward in relation to their courses.

CW: That is great. And finally, have you started thinking ahead to next academic year and any potential changes or new initiatives? 

AL: Yes, we are constantly looking ahead and trying to think of ways we can assist students with their finances and enhance the service we offer. We are anticipating students will continue to struggle with rising costs over the next year or so and will continue to promote and develop our key messaging around financial support and capability.  We are also engaged in streamlining our Hardship Fund webpages and application processes to ensure the Fund is accessible to all, by working with SU colleagues and encompassing the student voice into our approach. In addition, we are examining the recent Be Well Survey data to identify specific student cohorts we can better support, and emerging trends to inform the next steps we take in our continuing journey to provide relevant, effective and successful support.

KM: As you can see from the numbers mentioned earlier, the £1.50 meals are incredibly popular. However, offering these value meals is a real challenge for us financially, especially with costs rising from our suppliers. Supporting the students is still key for us though, so we are working on more financially sustainable ways to have this value offering.

We’re also looking at introducing more cooking sessions as part of our ResLife welcome in September, so more students can benefit from learning cookery skills and meeting others.
We will also be running a competition to win a chef for your kitchen group and encouraging the whole flat to cook with the chef (we will also provide the food) to demonstrate how cooking together is not only more economical but also a great way to build community with your peers.

CW: Thanks Andy and Kevin, that has been very insightful.

It is important for colleagues to remember that support and advice is available for all our students over the summer if they are struggling with finances, or any other issues, and that staff can also seek advice about supporting our students all year round via the Advice for Staff webpages or calling/emailing the Student Support Staff Advice line via:

Read my previous blogs here: Professor Cassie Wilson (

Contact me at to ask questions, or request future topics you'd like to hear about.

Posted in: food and drink, money advice, students' union, support

Cost of living advice and support for students


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