A midwifery student is facing homelessness and having to drop out of her course, after resorting to starving herself and food parcels to make ends meet.

She is just one of hundreds of students to have dropped out of UEA.

Last year, 624 students dropped out of university, citing mental health issues and a lack of financial support.

The international midwifery student said: ‘I had a different idea of what my timetable at UEA would be like. I was aware I couldn’t get a maintenance loan but I thought I could get an EU bursary that would cover my rent.

‘When I came here it turns out it only covers half of it.’

She said her course involved completing weekly 40 hour work placements with no external financial support.

‘I explained how I came to be in financial distress to student support but they argued I knew from the beginning that I would be in this situation so did not give me the hardship fund,’ she said.

‘There wasn’t anything anyone could do so I resorted to slowly started starving myself. I got a food parcel from the university but you are only allowed two in an academic year so that only temporarily helped.’

‘The university needs me to leave my accomodation by Wednesday and I have nowhere to go and no money. I don’t feel supported by the university and feel they could have done more to help.’

A spokesperson for the university said they would encourage all students to seek help from their schools or the union.

They said: ‘It is disappointing to hear that our services and staff are not meeting expectations on some occasions and we would encourage students to alert these instances within their schools or to the students’ union, so we can improve accordingly.’

The university said dropouts statistics could overlap with students who intercalated in the same year. Students who choose to intercalate officially take a period of time out of their academic studies. Some also decide to drop out following the intercalated period.  

Concrete spoke with more than 40 students on their reasons for leaving UEA.

A former computer science student, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that he left UEA in March last year due to ‘medical conditions surrounding health issues.’

He said student support services turned him away at a time of crisis.

He said: ‘I was referred to a low mood workshop, went, didn’t go to the follow up session because I didn’t like how large the group was. I was never chased by the centre again even though I stated the position I was in, then eventually just left.’

‘I’m sure I just slipped through their radar, not intentionally, just probably too much to help.’

A withdrawal survey conducted by the university in 2010 outlined six leading factors for dropping out: course content, academic support, unfulfilled expectations of the course, personal support, the quality of teaching and illness.

The report made recommendations on how to address the reasons students chose to leave UEA including streamlining the process for those contemplating dropping out and improving clarity on who assists students with the decision.

A spokesperson for the university said: ‘Our most recent figures (for academic years 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16) show the proportion of students who continue their studies is around 95 percent, which has consistently placed us in the top 20 percent of universities nationwide for students continuing their studies.

‘To ensure students settle and get the most from their studies, schools reflect on their induction and transition arrangements to see what went well and what enhancements can be introduced in future years.

‘We promote the academic advising system which supports students in their studies and our student support service offers a range of support in a range of styles.

In response to student concerns, Jenna Chapman, undergraduate education officer, said: ‘That’s why I’m working with colleagues at UEA to improve training for academic advisors including the opportunity for some to receive mental health first aid training.’

Georgina Burchell, welfare, community and diversity officer, said: ‘The support for students on campus is of critical concern to us and students at UEA. We want all students to access to the right level of support and for staff to feel confident that they are equipped to give it.

‘UEA is the same size in terms of population as a small town and we must make sure services are up to scratch. It’s worrying to hear from Concrete the numbers of students who are leaving UEA – whilst taking a break from study might be the right thing for some people we will be working with UEA to make sure we dig into this further.’

If you are affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, contact Student Support Services at studentsupport@uea.ac.uk, or by calling 01603 592761.