Politicians, students’ union (SU) officers, and Twitter users are not happy with the Conservatives today as news of the Government officially - and quietly - axing maintenance grants for more than half a million of the poorest students began to spread online.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, who is also Labour’s shadow minister for higher education, led the criticism after a “Third Delegated Legislation Committee” saw a small number of Tory MPs “sneak through” measures to remove the grants and replace them with loans without any debate or vote in the House of Commons.
Mr Marsden described the issue as being “too big a change to not be debated and voted on” and said: “I and my Labour colleagues are not going to give up on this issue and we will continue to raise it - by whatever means - in Parliament.
If you voted for a Tory MP, the Govt have taken your vote and used it to deny you representative democracy. https://t.co/TDCA6XXFQr— James O'Flynn (@jamesoflynn) January 14, 2016
Can't believe the government can get away with scrapping maintenance grants without a debate or vote in the House https://t.co/V32JkRrJQl— Sahiba (@sahibasamra) January 14, 2016
The Tories are attacking students from the poorest backgrounds by scrapping grants. Another generation cheated https://t.co/NVl9vIkHNk— Annie (@anniecxxx) January 14, 2016
thank you Tories once again for trying to scrap maintenance grants, without which I wouldn't be able to afford uni— jess (@jessicuughh) January 14, 2016
So the government has axed maintenance grants, more debt for students thanks Dave— Riona (@RionaBinona) January 14, 2016
So absolutely pissed off with the government today. How dare you axe maintenance grants without even having a debate?!?!— Jasmine Rose Barton (@jasminerbarton) January 14, 2016
The fact that the Tories attempt to justify scrapping maintenance grants on the grounds that they are "unfair" is a joke— katy sheridan (@katy_sheridan) January 14, 2016
“Removing these grants will make higher education unaffordable and disadvantage many students, and could see participation levels fall. This is just another disastrous measure from a government whose policies are damaging the life chances and aspirations of many people.”
During Prime Minister’s Question on Wednesday, David Cameron was reminded by Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, that such a fundamental change did, at no point, appear in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto.
The National Union of Students (NUS) accused Mr Cameron of “dodging” the issue, however, as he insisted it had been “fully debated and discussed” in the house. Mr Cameron added: “What our changes have shown - despite all the warnings from the party opposite - is that more people from low income backgrounds are taking part in higher education, and I’m confident that will continue to be the case.”
Labour MP for Ilford North, Wes Streeting, said it took just 90 minutes for 18 MPs to debate the abolition of student grants “in a committee that most people have never heard of.” He added: “Lord Stevenson has tabled a Lords motion. We won’t go down without a fight.”
Can't believe maintenance grants are getting scrapped, how does the gov expect students to live? Such a joke— han (@hannahwilkinsss) January 14, 2016
Real talk. We need the goddamn guillotine up in here. https://t.co/VuX7NIMlI8— Renomorph (@RenWarom) January 14, 2016
Tories are literally taking the piss #maintenancegrants— Al Gray (@AlGray_1) January 14, 2016
So our lovely government have passed their motion to scrap maintenance grants without debate. Disgusting.— Moll (@mollgrohl) January 14, 2016
How many times are we just gonna sit here & let the Tories dismantle all that's good in this country? #maintenancegrants— e.n. lee (@enleewrites) January 14, 2016
Working-class White men are least likely demographic to attend university...better scrap maintenance grants then. #ToryBritain— Rachael Gibbons (@RachCatherine92) January 14, 2016
Joining Mr Marsden in their disappointment at the decision made on Thursday, the team at Lancaster University SU described how they were “appalled to learn of the underhand and undemocratic way” in which the decision was handled. The group added: “It’s our belief Mr Osborne knows that, just like the ‘pasty tax’ and tax credit cuts, his new approach to grants doesn’t stand up to scrutiny - and he hopes that, by quietly forcing it through, he’ll avoid yet another embarrassment.”
The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) described how the battle in the #GrantsNotDebt campaign is not just a fight to save the maintenance grants of poorest students, but also “a fight against the Tories flagrant disdain of democracy.”
Recent research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found scrapping maintenance grants will result in the poorest 40 per cent of university students in England racking-up a graduate debt amount of up to £53,000 for a three-year course, compared to the £40,500 prior to the cut.
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