Published On: 11th June 2024

1,450 University students benefit from Access Foundation and Vodafone partnership

The Access Foundation has supplied 1,450 Vodafone SIM Cards to students facing financial hardship at three British universities.

Students attending  Aston, De Montfort and Birkbeck universities, known to be from zero-income households, have been given SIM cards to help alleviate financial worries, improve their digital access and enhance their ability to study.

Vodafone’s everyone.connected campaign strives to provide everyone with access to connectivity and open up opportunities often prevented by the digital divide. Vodafone has helped over 2 million people and businesses cross the digital divide.

The Foundation has teamed up with Vodafone to extend this support, allowing even more students to benefit from pre-paid SIM cards, with a monthly allowance of 40GB of internet and unlimited UK calls and text, enabling them to study flexibly and stay connected with family and friends.

Students who applied to join the scheme cited the top 4 “major motivations” for applying were:

  • 51% Alleviating financial worries
  • 48% better communication with Family and Friends
  • 42% help and enhance their ability to study & Better digital access
  • 27% Improved paid work opportunities / ability to apply for jobs

Student feedback on free connectivity

Recipients were most grateful for their SIM cards because they enabled better communication, allowed them to study wherever they wanted, made for easier job hunting, and alleviated financial stress.

One De Montfort student explained:

“I do not have broadband at home. The SIM will help with data for assignments and email. This will mean fewer trips to the Leicester City Council library and the university campus to get access to Wi-Fi.

Students facing challenging study conditions and financial pressures

Student feedback on the campaign highlighted the financial pressures exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis. For example, one Aston student disclosed that they were forced to choose between buying data or the train fare to their work placement. They highlighted that “the cost-of-living crisis is affecting many students; support like this goes a long way.”

Those who did not have connectivity at home were forced to travel to and from campus, a library, or another public space. This led to additional costs and caused problems for individuals responsible for caring for family members.

Students at De Montfort also disclosed that there is a stigma around not being able to afford a SIM. Instead of admitting the fact, students said they would lie to friends or family about a phone being lost, broken, or stolen.

A Birkbeck student, Vasilis Theodoros Kyriakou, revealed how the SIM card has improved his mental health and said:

“The free SIM card has eased my mind regarding my phone bills and allowed me to save money. It has lowered my anxiety about being without a phone connection, which may be a simple thing but is an essential need that makes a big difference to my daily life and well-being.”

Rachna Purdie, Deputy Director of Philanthropy at Birkbeck, University of London, commented:

“We are very grateful to The Access Group Foundation and Vodafone for empowering our students with reliable internet and phone connectivity, enabling them to thrive academically and personally.”