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Student hardship fund cuts are branded 'unacceptable'

By Rebecca Black

A £1.3m cut to a hardship fund for students has been described as "absolutely unacceptable" by their main representative body.

The hardship fund was set up to help Northern Ireland's poorest students at our six further education colleges.

Applications to the fund had decreased in recent years but rose by almost 1,000 last year while its budget shrank.

Fergal McFerran, deputy president of the Students' Union here – the NUS-USI – has insisted that the cash should be re-instated, and the body has created an online petition to this effect.

According to an NUS-USI survey, more than half of students in further education (52%) have considered leaving their course because of financial difficulties.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that there has been around a £1.3m cut in the FE student hardship funding over the past five years," said Mr McFerran, who will lead a delegation to meet Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry over the cuts.

"Hardship funds are vital and ensure students don't have to take out high interest pay day loans."

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