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Issue Date:- 29/28 April 2009


MANY students in the north west are choosing the cheaper option when applying for university, rather than the course or institution which best suits their interests and abilities, according to a survey commissioned by the National Union of Students (NUS).

The survey of this year's university applicants, found that:-

► 65% of all applicants in the north west claim that the recession has affected their choice of university

► Debt averse students in the north west are choosing universities where they can live at home (23%), reduce travel costs (27%), or where they can get the most bursary or scholarship money (41%)

Liverpool Guild of Students President, Dannie Grufferty, said:- “It is a real shame that 66% of university applicants from the north west find their choices restricted by financial concerns. The whole system of student support needs to be overhauled so that poorer students are no longer priced out of any university courses.”

NUS President Wes Streeting said:- “Clearly, students applying for university this year have faced some stark choices as a result of the recession. Rather than simply choosing the best course or campus for them, many are now sadly having to take money into consideration.  There is no denying that the economic crisis has made everyone think more carefully about the debt they incur, and students are no exception. But it is completely unacceptable that six out of ten poorer students in England are restricted in their choice of university by financial concerns.  The need for a national bursary scheme is now greater than ever. All financial support should be based on how much a student needs it, not where they happen to be studying. We cannot leave this in the hands of individual institutions any longer.”

The survey also uncovered concerns about employment and parental contribution. 75% are more likely to seek part time employment while at university, and over 33% expect the recession to affect the amount of money they will receive from their parents. And parents who are concerned about the health and lifestyle of their offspring whilst at university will be dismayed to learn that over half plan to seek out cheaper food because of the recession.

Protecting consumers from E-criminals

ACTION to tackle fraudsters and criminals who use the internet to con consumers will be a key theme of the Government's forthcoming Consumer White Paper, Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas said.  Speaking to Trading Standards professionals in Manchester, the Minister said more effective enforcement was needed to protect consumers using the internet to buy goods and services from scams and fraud. Proposals will be brought forward in a White Paper to be published in the summer.  Gareth Thomas said:- "E-criminals and fraudsters can be highly sophisticated, mobile, working across regional and national boundaries. With British consumers making almost double the amount of online transactions compared to the European average, they are twice as likely to be exposed to online fraudsters.  Our current system is designed to protect the consumer who goes to a shopping centre or retail park. But the modern consumer is now increasingly buying goods and services through websites that could be run from anywhere in the world, with goods shipped and delivered across borders.  We need to create a regime that is fit to protect the consumer from modern fraudsters and criminals. This means looking more innovatively at new ways of working."   The Minister said other themes of the White Paper would include helping vulnerable consumers, including people in debt, borrowing and lending more responsibly, strengthening consumers' ability to make informed decisions, and streamlining and modernising consumer law. Gareth Thomas also visited Manchester's Swan Street Citizens Advice Bureau to find out how funding to allow longer opening hours was providing real help in the economic downturn for people facing financial pressures.   A total of £10 million has been given to the Citizen's Advice Bureaux across England and Wales to fund extra opening hours as part of the Additional Hours for Advice (AHA) Project.   Gareth Thomas said:- "We understand that many people face financial pressures at this time. Extended opening hours by Citizens Advice Bureaux means that more people can get the help they need to take control of their finances - rather than letting debt and money worries control them."  Manchester CAB Chief Executive Andy Brown said:- "These extra hours are making a vital difference to supporting people across Manchester on a range of issues including debt, employment and welfare."


NEW research released from charity Age Concern and Help the Aged reveals that the majority of older consumers, 11.8 million (57%), believe that businesses in the UK ignore them in favour of appealing to the ‘youth market’, with 47% surveyed, 9.7 million, even stating that they felt UK businesses were ‘youth-obsessed’. This is despite the fact that the Charity calculates older people’s spending power to be worth an estimated £250 billion a year.

The new research comes as the Charity launches Age OK, an accreditation that will be awarded to products and services that the Age OK expert panels judge to be ‘age-friendly’. The accreditation will highlight to consumers which products and services have been designed with the needs of older people in mind, which in turn will help set standards for best practice across the commercial sector. In order to receive the accreditation, businesses can apply to put specific products and services through the rigorous assessment process.

The new research reveals the true extent to which older people feel blighted by practices that they believe alienate and fail them as consumers. Approximately 11.4 million (55%), believe businesses in the UK have little interest in older people’s needs, and 10.4 million stated that, on the whole, advertising attempting to target people aged 50+ was patronising and stereotypical.

The research further established that, taking price out of the equation, impatient staff was the factor that would put older people off most from purchasing a product, followed by unclear instructions, difficult-to-open packaging, inaccessible shop space, and poor product design. Notably 1 in 5 people aged 60 and over said that difficult–to-open packaging would stop them purchasing a product completely.

Those surveyed were also asked to rate different business sectors in terms of their age-friendliness, or otherwise. The least age-friendly sector was judged by older people to be the telecoms sector, followed by the utilities sector, automotive sector and financial services industry. Retail businesses, such as supermarkets, were rated most age-friendly by the respondents.

Michelle Mitchell Charity Director of Age Concern and Help the Aged commented:- “The UK has a rapidly ageing population, where retired people now outnumber those under 16, yet we continue to hear that older people feel they are ignored by businesses. We hope this new research and the launch of Age OK will act as a wake up call to businesses and highlight that they’re missing a trick by not responding to the needs of older consumers. They should also heed the warning that older people may not buy their products if they fail to take them into account.

The Age OK accreditation will show consumers of all ages, including older consumers, that a product has been designed inclusively. Eligible products could range from a travel insurance product, a remote control, to something as simple as a packet of biscuits.”

Joan Bakewell, the Government’s champion for older people, who will be attending the launch of Age OK at the Design Museum in London on 29 April, said:- “This latest research from Age Concern and Help the Aged supports what older people’s own experience already bears out – that to their detriment, businesses are neglecting them, and in some cases, discriminating against them.

It’s time that businesses took a less short-sighted view and woke up to the opportunity older customers offer in terms of their bottom line, particularly in these difficult economic times. However, aside from the business opportunity, it’s also imperative that they start preparing for the very necessary changes that will have to take place, across the whole of society, in order to properly meet the needs of our ageing population."

Carmel Giblin, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Accessibility at BskyB, the first winner of an Age OK product accreditation for its Sky+ inclusive remote control for digital satellite, said:- “The Age OK accreditation is fantastic recognition of our accessible remote control, which is available to all of our nine million customers free of charge.

The remote control was designed in partnership with Scope, Age Concern and Ricability to ensure that through good design, we created a unique, accessible product which could really make a difference.

We believe in offering our customers the best possible choice of entertainment and with that goes a dedication to ensure it is accessible to everyone.”

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