2021, you’ve been another wild ride! There’s no denying it’s been challenging at times, not least for students and the university and college staff who have again worked so hard to support them, while adapting and dealing with ongoing uncertainty and change.
But 2021 has had its better moments too; the Covid vaccines were rolled out and the first-ever Malaria vaccine approved, the Olympics returned, the ‘Friends’ were reunited, England made it to the Euros final, Adele released her first album in 6 years, and dolphins were spotted swimming in Venice’s Grand Canal.
This year has also seen the phrase ‘financial wellbeing’ become more widespread across the sector and we’re proud to have championed this shift. After all, thinking about students’ mental wellbeing, wider health, and university experience without considering the implication of financial wellbeing is like… having fish without chips, a birthday with no cake, or a bath without bubbles!
So as we look back on 2021 and think about our goals and hopes for 2022, here’s what this year has held for us at Blackbullion and our mission to support the financial wellbeing of young people by demystifying the world of finance and improving access to funding.
Sharing new findings on student financial wellbeing
We kicked off the year by launching our inaugural Money and Wellbeing Report to help university and college leadership, support staff and other HE providers gain a better understanding of the impact that financial concerns (exacerbated by Covid) have had on students and explore practical steps that can be taken to help.
Key findings included:
- Can students afford to stay at university? Do they need to defer or drop out?
- How big is the gap between what students need and what they have?
- How has financial wellbeing affected students’ mental health?
It became clear from the research just how big an impact financial wellbeing can have on all other areas of students’ lives. That’s why we’re hosting the first Student Festival of Financial Wellbeing in February 2022; to help all students access vital education about money and discover practical ways to prioritise and develop their financial wellbeing.
Download the report here and look out for the 2022 edition, coming in February.
Demystifying the world of finance for students
One Blackbullion financial lesson was completed every 3 minutes in 2021 by a student! We also reached the milestone this year of 140,000 students registered for our Financial Wellbeing Platform and we’re so proud that 95% of our student users say they would recommend Blackbullion to a friend.
We’ve seen a definite upwards tick in the number of students taking an interest in personal finance this year; more than 3,000 students have attended our online financial planning webinars.
During our November Unibattle fortnight alone:
- 30,000 students logged into the Blackbullion platform
- 20,000+ financial education lessons were completed by students
- 700 hours of video learning was watched
I found the Blackbullion platform very helpful. It’s great to have something that explains finance because it’s a big thing when it comes to overall uni experience and wellbeing and it’s not something you learn anywhere else.
Raising awareness of financial risks
We’ve noticed that students’ financial habits have shifted (we dig deeper into this here). There’s been a definite trend over the last 18 months in students turning their focus towards newer, digital ways of making, managing and using money. Two activities that are certainly on the up amongst students are cryptocurrency trading and reliance on Buy Now Pay Later services.
We’ve worked this year to raise awareness among students of the financial implications and risks such activities carry, so they can make an informed decision on whether to get involved or to avoid them. We’ve also focused on bringing support staff up to speed too, so they can feel comfortable having conversations with students about financially risky activities.
Improving the financial support process and access to funding for students
- £4 million in funding awarded to students
- 700 working days saved for staff (thanks to the FMS’s automation features)
- 23,000 student applications and >100,000 pieces of evidence processed
Part of the Blackbullion platform, the FMS makes the financial support process significantly easier for both students and staff as each step of the process takes place digitally.
We’re thrilled to have had such brilliant feedback from both students and staff throughout the year; check out what our partners at Keele University and University Centre South Essex College have to say!
This is so much easier than what I’ve had to use previously to apply for funding.
We also introduced Instant Payments to the FMS this year; empowering universities and colleges to deliver secure payments to students in seconds. We know this is something students care about; with some waiting weeks to receive their funds after their application was approved, 47% of students previously told us that what’s most important to them when it comes to the financial support application process is receiving an immediate payment.
Supporting the financial wellbeing of young people in South Africa
We’ve taken an exciting step in our global expansion this year by partnering with WaFunda to take Blackbullion into South Africa and support the financial wellbeing of students there.
Through the partnership, students and young people working with WaFunda will have access to the financial learning content in the Blackbullion platform, helping them to develop the essential money skills and confidence that ultimately underpin individuals’ success.
It’s been brilliant to see students in South Africa already feed back that access to Blackbullion has contributed more to their financial stability than monetary donations towards their education.
With partners already in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, this means the Blackbullion platform is now available for students in four countries. Increasing the global availability of our Financial Wellbeing Platform enables us to extend our expertise, further demystify finance and support the financial wellbeing of more young people around the world. Watch this space!
Providing CPD-accredited sessions for support staff
We’ve been running financial planning sessions for thousands of students a year for some time now and this year we further developed our offering for support staff too, becoming a CPD-accredited provider.
The sessions have proved to be a hit! We had over 350 sign ups for the six sessions in our summer series about how to support students with activities that carry financial risk. More than 70 staff members have joined us for each session in our Autumn Staff Training Series, facilitated by Lynne Condell MBE.
Our next CPD-accredited series for staff will start in the spring – make sure you’re signed up to our staff newsletter to be the first to hear about it. In the meantime, summaries of each webinar can be found on our blog.
Growing our community (and our team!)
Our community of almost 50 universities and colleges is growing fast and we’re thrilled to welcome new students and staff to our platform all the time. In fact, we’re immensely proud to say that 1 million students now have access to our platform through our partnerships with universities and colleges around the world.
This has meant growth for Team Blackbullion too and we’re now very proud to be a small but mighty team of 16! Have a nosey at our faces here. You can also find out more about us in our ‘Building Blackbullion’ blog series – here’s the first instalment.
2022, let’s be having you
Phew! It’s been another big year for us at Blackbullion and we’re really proud of all we’ve achieved in championing student financial wellbeing and taking important steps towards demystifying the world of finance and improving access to funding for students.
We’ve got no plans to slow down in 2022; make sure to sign up to our staff newsletter so you don’t miss a thing! In the meantime, we hope you can get some well-deserved downtime over the festive period and look forward to seeing you next year.
To all our partners: a very special thank you. If you’re not yet part of the Blackbullion community, get in touch to talk about the great work we could do together in 2022.