Bright Idea – University Guarantor Service

Abby King talks to Jake Shepherd, the mind behind a recently popular Bright Idea regarding a guarantor service for students.

It’s been a week since third year student, Jake Shepherd’s, Bright Idea took off. He wants the university to introduce a ‘Guarantor Service for Students from Non-Home Owning Backgrounds’. I caught up with Jake, who studies Geography, Politics and International Relations to chat about his idea.

What are the motivations behind your Bright Idea?

As a disadvantaged student and the first in my family to go to university, there wasn’t really anyone to warm me about the potential difficulties in finding a UK guarantor.

What are these ‘potential difficulties’?

Often your guarantor needs to be a UK homeowner who can satisfy a credit reference agency check (up to 9 linked addresses, no County Court Judgements (CCJs), Electoral Roll data and Credit Score). Whilst house hunting with friends during first year, the issue of homeownership and CCJs arose when filling out paperwork with our letting agent. Living (non-term time) in a council house with a family member who is subject to a CCJ, I had no alternative but to ask my grandpa (and uncle in second year) to act as my guarantor.

Have you come across students in similar situations to yours?

I’ve found since speaking to other students is that this it is an issue which affects a far wider range of people than I had imagined, so it is definitely important in that respect.

Often if you can’t provide a UK Guarantor, you might be asked to provide an advance of 6-12 months payment to secure your property, which as you can imagine is frankly unaffordable for many students.

How does this affect students in their studies?

I feel this is important primarily for students from disadvantaged backgrounds or are the first in their family to study at university. A lot of time, energy and resources goes into widening participation in university (despite higher education not being as representative as it should), but beyond this we have to start thinking of what student experience is like once they enrol. For me, the struggle of finding a guarantor hadn’t even crossed my mind, I wouldn’t have thought living in a council house would have any impact on my life as a university student.

Are there any current schemes in place that offer solutions to these problems?

There are companies who offer students a UK Guarantor Service, Housing Hand (as an example) charge a minimum of £295, and ranges between 60-95 % of your share of the monthly rent. Whilst this is a solution, it is still an unnecessary expense for students who are being penalised for living in a council property / social housing, are international students with no UK Guarantor, are a care leaver or estranged from their family and/or come from an indebted household.

So, how would your idea work?

My idea then, is for the college to establish a University Guarantor scheme. They’d act as your guarantor to help you become a private renter and relieve the pressure from students who’d otherwise struggle. These schemes are already in operation in other universities like Kent, Imperial and Surrey.

Jake’s Bright Idea now has over 60 ‘up votes’, meeting the SU’s target of 50 votes that are needed for them to take action.