Written by Vivi Friedgut

Founder & CEO

Well, here we are with another end-of-year recap. It’s been an unprecedented year yet again (when can we stop saying that?!), with a side of stress and – I hope – wonderful impact when it comes to financial support and education for students.

We started 2022 emerging from Covid restrictions and on the cusp of the cost of living crisis. Now, we’re ending it heading into a recession. 

But if there’s one thing the current economic climate is doing, it’s making our mission focus laser sharp; to improve students’ financial wellbeing, by equipping young people with money skills for life and improving their access to funds when they need extra support. 

So, as has become a Blackbullion tradition, I wanted to share a round-up of the steps we’ve taken over the past 12 months to do just that.

1. Supported school leavers with Blackbullion Futures

Not one to start small, we kicked off the year by launching Blackbullion Futures! We teamed up with the Bank of England and Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, to create a place for 16-19 year-olds to develop the knowledge and skills they need to plan their futures. And were featured on Sky News!

The not-for-profit initiative encourages school students to explore the different pathways available after secondary education. Free education resources look at different choices (including university, apprenticeships and further education colleges) and consider the financial implications of each, to help students make an informed decision about their future.

2. Distributed an incredible £12+ million through Blackbullion’s Funds Management System

I’m beyond proud that this month, we hit a new milestone: a total of £12 million collectively distributed to students through our Funds Management System (FMS) by our university partners.

The cost of living crisis has meant that money worries have overwhelmed the student population this year, with many struggling to make ends meet. Our partners are seeing a sharp increase in the number of students applying for hardship and other funding from their universities. 

We built the FMS to not only make applying for financial support easier and less stressful for students, but to significantly reduce the time and admin required by staff in managing and distributing funds. 

Looking at the data for 2022, we can see that the FMS’s automated email feature saved the equivalent of 1,119 days for our partners – that’s 160 weeks, or 3 years!

In total, our partners manage almost 70 funds in the Funds Management System. Each month, students submit an average of 1,450 applications for these through the FMS and £535,000 is awarded. In November alone, over £1.2 million was awarded to students by our partners using the FMS! 

We’re seeing how the FMS is helping our partners. Here’s what it has meant for Gemma Baroni, Financial Support Officer at the University of Essex – in her own words:

Read more about Essex’s experience with the FMS here.

A lot of the time when I fill out a form, I find it really difficult, especially being dyslexic. But the Blackbullion application form is easy to read and really straightforward. I prefer it to my university’s previous process.

Student feedback on the Funds Management System

3. Highlighted the emerging impact of the cost of living crisis

Back in March, our Student Money & Wellbeing 2022 research showed the early impact of the cost of living crisis for students. As well as identifying the widening gap between the financial wellbeing and confidence of female and male students, headline findings included:

  • On average, students needed an additional £395 a month to confidently feel  they could complete their degree
  • 75% of students surveyed said they worry about finances 
  • 57% of those said worrying about finances negatively impacts their mental health

At the time of the survey, the cost of living crisis was only just emerging in the UK – as we all well know, the situation has rapidly accelerated throughout the year. We expect this to be reflected in the Student Money & Wellbeing 2023 findings, which will be released in March. Make sure to sign up to our email newsletter to be the first to see them.

4. Began transforming scholarship culture with The Scholarship Hub acquisition

We work with students, university and college staff every day using our platform. We know from them that the reality for many students is that, regardless of how skilled they are at budgeting, they simply don’t have enough money. Financial support, in addition to education, is important now more than ever. 

It’s why we’re working hard to make it easy for students to discover and apply for any additional funding they may be eligible for. 

In April, we announced our acquisition of The Scholarship Hub – an important step towards building the biggest database of additional funding for students. 

A key focus for 2023 is our corporate strategy – working with businesses to shape more scholarships, grants and bursaries for students to expand our Funds Hub as well as transform the scholarship culture in the UK. Shaping categories is in our DNA. Us? Miss a challenge? Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

5. Expanded our university partnerships

We welcomed a host of new partners again this year including Queen’s University Belfast Student Union, Unite Students, the University of Bath, Leeds Conservatoire, the University of Roehampton, the University of Northumbria, Newman University, the University of Leicester and the University of York.

This means we’re now partnered with more than 50 universities and colleges across the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Making the Blackbullion platform available to over 1 million students worldwide! 

We’ve also continued to work closely with our partners in South Africa this year to support young people across the African continent too.

Read more about our clients and how they’re using our platform here.

The learning pathways in Blackbullion are invaluable and bring so much to our goals and objectives for financial education and capability.

Jacqui Hamilton, Financial Capability and Student Success Officer, Nottingham Trent University

The Funds Management System appeared at exactly the right time for us. I thought it would be amazing because we were using a very admin-heavy, time-consuming process for financial support applications. We were looking at ways to rely more heavily on technology to cut down on time and manual admin.

Hayley Borrett, Former Student Support Officer, Keele University

6. Supported over 150,000 students in their financial journey

This one feels huge. We now have more than 150,000 students using the Blackbullion platform – an increase of 48% over the last 12 months.

In fact, curious students came to our platform from every university in the country!  But only those at our partner universities are able to access the complete benefits.

Between them, students have been very busy on our platform this year. Here’s what they’ve been up to…

Learning

180,000+

financial lessons completed on our platform – that’s 1 lesson every 2 minutes in 2022

28,000+

learning pathways completed

70%

of questions answered correctly

81%

of students say they feel more confident about money after completing learning on Blackbullion

Funding

170,000+

pieces of evidence uploaded to support funding applications

49,000+

students viewed a fund’s application page

18,000

funding applications submitted

After watching the videos, I gained a lot of knowledge on how to manage my finances so that I could adjust to the rising cost of living in the UK.

Khaw, Student, UWE Bristol

7.  Raised £2.5m to accelerate student financial wellbeing

In October, I was thrilled to announce that we raised £2.5 million to accelerate student financial wellbeing and tackle the cost of living crisis. 

The funding has enabled us to grow Team Blackbullion so that we can achieve our ambitious plans – almost doubling it so far! 

Over the coming months, you’ll see the results of this investment too. The team is continuously iterating and innovating to make our platform as impactful as can be for the staff and students who use it. And in 2023, we’ll be adding the features you want and also solutions you don’t yet know you won’t be able to live without. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on to improve financial support and education for students.

Bring on 2023!

Now, as we start to look ahead to 2023, we are ever more committed to continually investing in our innovative, multi-award-winning platform in service of our vision of a money-smarter world. And there are some very exciting developments on the horizon!

To all our partners: a sincere thank you – we couldn’t do it without you. And if you’re not yet part of the Blackbullion community but want to invest in your students’  financial education and ensure they have access to additional funding sources in 2023, or you are interested in using our FMS for your funds management, get in touch.

On the other hand, if you are a company – of any size, and in any sector – and would like to generate social impact, enhance your talent pipeline and support your diversity initiatives through the creation of scholarships for students, let us know.

We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from students.

Rachel Leighton-Jones, Financial Support Officer, University of Essex

Please note: when referring to males and females in Student Money & Wellbeing 2022 findings, this is in reference to people who chose to identify as either male or female at the beginning of the survey.

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