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NUS President Shakira Martin has exclusively revealed the Student Poverty Commission at the NUS’ 2017 Student Media Summit. The initiative seeks to gather evidence to capture the reality that working class students face at university.

Research conducted by UCAS has shown that applications to universities across the UK has dropped by 5%, and disadvantaged young people are 35% less likely to access higher education. This has been brought about by the scrapping of maintenance grants, the rise in the price of accommodation and the increase in tuition fees, meaning many students will graduate with £57,000 worth of debt.

A mother herself, Martin also cited reasons such as the financial burden of childcare for mature students and social attitudes towards the working class as reason for underprivileged students being more likely to drop out once accepted into university.

Education is a public good; everyone benefits.

Over two years, the commission seeks to expose the difficulties that working class students face by placing them at the centre of the conversation. The findings will be published in a report citing recommendations that, through campaigning, are hoped will incite a change in the experiences of disadvantaged young people in higher education.

Martin personally believes in free access to higher education, stating ‘education is a public good; everyone benefits’. Speaking about the commission she adds, ‘I’m really excited, although it’s a bit shit’ – commenting on this recent research that illustrates the class divisions that still exist. She aims ‘to tear down those barriers’ by meeting with liberation officers as well as students across the country, holding events at various universities.

Accompanying this, Martin plans a video project which will capture real life, uncut experiences from working class students, proving that her commission is not limited to economic and educational restraints. In her closing remarks she says, ‘everybody’s story and everybody’s journey is different’.

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