The rising cost of living has affected everyone across the UK. However, students who have previously been struggling to keep away from their overdrafts are among those facing the biggest brunt, as many face redundancies in their jobs.
Until the previous academic year, students could either have part-time jobs with low student loan rates or not have to work at all with higher student loan rates. However, student loans have not increased with inflation, and along with that many restaurants across Manchester are shutting down.
In the last few months restaurants and pubs like the Gherkin, No 1 Canal Street and Roti have all shut down. Many students used to work part-time in these restaurants and have been heavily hurt by the redundancies.
Geri, a first-year student at the University of Manchester had been working in Roti in Chorlton. She said that she was working at £10 per hour since September. Since the restaurant announced that they were closing their Chorlton branch in January, Geri has struggled to find work.
She said, “If my parents didn’t contribute, I genuinely wouldn’t have money to socialise… Even now I just have enough money to pay rent and my food bills.” Geri added that she even had to skip meals, with three meals a day too expensive.
Geri is not the only one in this situation. Almost a quarter of Russel Group University students have been skipping meals to keep up with the cost of their rent. Meanwhile, households all over the UK are facing food poverty and having to reconsider the model of eating three times a day.
She continued, stating that while her parents are helping her she doesn’t like the situation that she is in. Geri said that she doesn’t feel as independent as she wants to be.
Meanwhile, Scott, a third-year student, has had to face two redundancies. The previous academic year he used to work at the Font, a popular student bar off Oxford Road. However, once he came back to work after the summer, Font had to announce several redundancies in their staff.
Scott didn’t have too tough of a time finding a different job. In the last few weeks of October, he got an opportunity to work at the Gherkin in Levenshlume. The Gherkin, who were also struggling at the time and almost put themselves up for sale, were still able to offer Scott a job as a waiter.
Farewell Font Manchester 💔 (thread)— The Font, MCR (@TheFontMCR) January 6, 2023
With sorrowful hearts we regret to announce The Font Manchester is closing for business.
Our last day will be tmrw eve, Sat 7th Jan, 4pm – 1am pic.twitter.com/ANJKvzDaPh
Hence, when Font announced that it was closing in January, Scott still had a job. He said, “While it did not seem like the most stable job, with the managers always trying something different to get money in, it was a great job nonetheless. I made money that kept me living comfortably. But then they announced that they were shutting down.”
The Gherkin has been closed since the start of March 2023. Scott has not been able to find a job since. While talking in April he said, “Thank God the loan comes next week. I am too uncomfortably close to my overdraft.”
Scott does thank the Gherkin, as members there have started their own GoFundMe page to help fundraise some money for the staff. The page still receives donations to this day, which Scott calls “a much-needed hand-out.”
Students like Geri and Scott are having uncertainty over their money. They are amongst many students who are not able to support their living, even after working part-time. This uncertainty has made many students believe that they may not be returning to university next year and take a gap year to work and fund their degree.
According to a survey conducted by The Guardian, one in every five students at top UK universities have considered dropping out due to the cost of living. Geri is one such person who believes that it may not be feasible to continue studying next year.
While Geri and Scott struggle with the uncertainty of finding money, students like Jack faced uncertainty over the existence of their job. Jack was one of 150 people working at Escape to Freight Island. The restaurant announced in December 2022 that it would not be open through the winter.
The hub for foods, drinks, and festivals was supposed to return on January 15 2023, but the reopening was postponed. They gave a list to their 150 staff members from other areas in the services industry that were recruiting. However, the restaurants weren’t informed that they had been added to a mailing list of 150 people. Hence, systems got overwhelmed and most of the staff still waited for the day that Freight Island was to open again.
In an email on March 9, the owners of Freight Island announced that they had partnered up with a different chain, Peppermint Events. In a gross misunderstanding between staff and managers, the employees thought that they no longer had a job even though they had waited for Freight Island to reopen.
Freight Island are "excited to inform" their staff that they may get let go in a week.— James Chapman (@_Chappers_) March 9, 2023
Premier league shithousery. Absolutely rotten. pic.twitter.com/W8XvZgiOjp
Jack commented on the miscommunication, stating, “That day was a rollercoaster of emotions. We thought that we had all been removed from a job that we had been waiting on for the last three months. We started boycotting movements and talked to journalists because we were all scared. Scared for what this meant for our futures.”
While Freight Island quickly announced that all their employees will get to keep their contracts and everything was a misunderstanding, this situation does show how precarious being unemployed currently is. Jack said, “I just wanted to have a job, get paid and live my uni life out. But that night our anxieties, as a collective, were through the roof. If we had all just been fired, where will we go? How will we keep living?”
Many students say that their time at university is much more than just studying. The experience and social activities are priceless, yet the price of maintaining them is affecting many in the current climate we live in.
Read more on recent Manchester closures here: