Today the Chancellor George Osborne announced the removal of all government-funded maintenance grants for students in Higher Education, replacing the grants with loans from 2016.
Huge numbers of students are dependent on maintenance grants, which enable some of the most financially vulnerable people to pay their living costs at university without contributing to their tuition debts. The majority of students attending university today are saddled with decades of debt repayments to pay back the £9,000 yearly tuition fee that afforded their aspirations.
Helena Blair, CUSU Access Officer, says:
“We are deeply angered by the Chancellor’s announcement today, which is a devastating attack on the aspirations of poorer students. The Government’s message is clear: it has little opinion of young people, especially those already facing social and financial disadvantage.
“For many gifted students the prospect of a university education can feel out of reach and unaffordable. We believe there will be considerable consequences as Mr Osborne’s budget adds up to £17,000 of additional debt onto students who are already some of the poorest in our society.
“This action will undoubtedly result in fewer students attending university who are from financially-disadvantaged backgrounds or who do not fit the Government’s narrow view of young peoples’ needs and concerns. We urge the Government to re-think its decision, which goes entirely against the Government’s own commitments to make a university education accessible to all.”
CUSU recognises that the University of Cambridge is committed to widening access and promoting the institution as a place of study for any capable student, whatever their background. The University of Cambridge had made strong progress against their aims and in 2014-15, 62.2% of Cambridge students admitted were from state-educated backgrounds.
However, continued positive progress in this direction will be difficult when decisions by the government, such as those announced today, combined with A Level reform and the prospect of further tuition fee rises, only increase barriers to higher education.
As the students’ union at Cambridge, CUSU contributes to its university’s aims of widening applications to Cambridge University by coordinating the annual Shadowing Scheme, the Alternative Prospectus and the Target Schools initiative. The Union and its members are passionate about widening access and removing barriers to participation at Cambridge, and we strongly believe the removal of maintenance grants is destructive and wrong.