Shakira Martin launches Student Poverty Commission

Wednesday 30-08-2017 - 10:30

Two-year project will reach out to forgotten corners of our society and students from all areas of further and higher education.

Research from NUS Extra released this week shows that 46 per cent of students are worried about being unable to afford basics like bread and milk. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are still 35 per cent less likely to attend university, and are much more likely to drop out if they do. With maintenance grants cut, we are seeing the poorest students being penalised for the social class they were born into, leaving university with an average of £57,000 of debt.

Shakira was elected this year on a promise to listen students living in poverty and with a mandate to conduct extensive research into the issues affecting them. Therefore NUS will be gathering a body of evidence between now and February, to shine a light on the reality of student poverty in 2017.

We will hold four Listen and Learn events across the UK, inviting students and communities together to share their stories and discuss the barriers facing them, with each event being launched by an inspiring individual who has faced these barriers themselves.

We will work with experts in the field and gather data from across the country. We will capture the personal stories of students affected by the cost of living crisis. We will show the government what it is really like being a student living in poverty.

In February we will release our findings along with a series of recommendations for the education sector. Informed by these recommendations we will call on the government to conduct a review into poverty and education and start the conversation on how we can tear these barriers down.

Launching the Student Poverty Commission at the Student Media Summit in London, Shakira said:

“When I was elected four months ago I said that more students are living in poverty now than ever before. I talked about money being a massive barrier to education, and the cost of housing pricing people out. I said I would tackle that. I said I would listen to the people affected. I said I would conduct proper research that would help us win.

I’m not just talking about the people who have been lucky enough to make it to university. I’m talking about students like myself: a single parent of two children from a working class background who could never have had what many people would call a “typical” university experience.

I’m talking about apprentices like Hannah: 19 years old with a two-year-old, living in council housing and left with £30 a week to care for herself and her child.

I’m talking about the people who we don’t know about because they don’t even make it that far. Working class communities in the Welsh Valleys, the working class girl in Northern Ireland who falls pregnant and cannot afford the trip to England for an abortion. I’m talking about the people who cannot attend university in Scotland, because although fees are free, rent definitely is not.

I’m talking about the people across the UK who leave school at 16, or even sooner, and go into minimum wage jobs because they simply cannot afford to do anything else, or perhaps because they have been made to feel that they are not capable of anything else.

I believe that we are all capable of furthering our education. We are all capable of achieving, but for some the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against us. That is what I want to change.”

To find out more about the Student Poverty Commission, please email


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