The Government looks set to officially scrap maintenance grants today - without a vote and debate in the House of Commons - and will be spoken about by just 17 MPs through a legislation committee, a move some politicians have labelled “shocking,” “undemocratic,” and “frightening.”
The issue was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday by Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central. However, the National Union of Students (NUS), which has been calling for a fair debate on the topic to take place, described how David Cameron “dodged” Mr Blomfield’s questions “on such a crucial issue.”
In the full exchange, Mr Blomfield to Mr Cameron: “When the Government pushed through their changes to undergraduate funding four years ago, they said that providing maintenance grants for the poorest students was key to their participation in higher education.
.@lucyallan Govt shouldn't hide from a real debate. Please vote today to 'not consider' scrapping maintenance grants for poorest students— Megan Dunn (@megandunn116) January 14, 2016
In committee room 9 for the toothless Third Delegated Legislation Committee where we're discussing scrapping student grants. Disgrace.— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) January 14, 2016
This is the membership of the committee debating student grants. Tories are starred, SNP added only yesterday. pic.twitter.com/FIUiLNcixm— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) January 14, 2016
“No mention was made in the Conservative manifesto of ending those grants. Is it therefore not completely unacceptable to make that fundamental change tomorrow by the back door, in Committee, without a vote of this House?”
Mr Cameron, however, insisted the issue had been “fully debated and discussed” in the house, and added: “It’s absolutely right because what our changes have shown - despite all the warnings from the party opposite - that more people are taking part in higher education and more people from low income backgrounds are taking part in higher education - and I’m confident that will continue to be the case.”
Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, described how he worked in higher education before becoming an MP and saw, at first-hand, how being at university “allows people to grow and develop.” He added: “This is a very frightening prospect for young people and their parents. This is a typical Tory reaction, they don’t understand what it is like to struggle.
Student news in pictures
Student news in pictures
1/19 UCL students ‘declare victory’ as 5-month long rent dispute is resolved
UCL said its offer to make available £350,000 for 2016/17 to fund accommodation bursaries for those students in most need of financial support, to freeze rent for 2016/17 and to reduce rent for some rooms had been accepted. Shelly Asquith, NUS vice-president of welfare, said: “Rent hikes will lead to more rent strikes, and now we know that rent strikes win.”
UCL, Cut the Rent/Facebook
2/19 Dutch university warns UK students to apply as soon as possible while tuition fees are still affordable
Maastricht University (UM) in the Netherlands has said British students will continue to benefit from fees of just £1,600 a year for at least the next two years. Once Britain has legally left the EU - and considering it does not join the European Economic Area - UM said its fees could still rise to as much as £8,360 a year for UK students.
Brian Megens/Maastricht University
3/19 UK risks losing over 33,000 much-needed female scientists each year
New research has shown almost a quarter of current female science students will not or are not sure whether they will pursue a career in science, equating to 33,371 students. Dr Steve Shiel, scientific director at L’Oreal UK & Ireland, said: “There’s no question that science needs women, and it’s disappointing almost a quarter of passionate young UK scientists are being put off before they’ve even begun their career.”
4/19 De Montfort University petition urges Government to protect residency rights of EU nationals post-Brexit result
A petition launched by the Leicester institution less than a week ago has already gathered 1,500 signatures as supporters insist EU nationals make “an enormous contribution” to ground-breaking research and quality of teaching. Rick Greenough, of DMU’s Institute for Energy and Sustainable Development, said: “Our colleagues from the EU are far too valuable as employees and friends to risk forcing or encouraging them to leave the UK.”
5/19 Exeter University staff and students subjected to verbal abuse post-EU referendum
Deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Exeter, Professor Nick Talbot, told ITV News the incidents were “terrible, reprehensible, and awful.” However, he said he believes the majority of people in the United Kingdom would “overwhelming reject that type of activity.” The university has urged anyone who experiences such incidents to contact police immediately.
6/19 Students turning to sex work to cope with rising tuition fees and living costs
More than half - 67 per cent - have turned to sex work to be able to pay for living expenses, such as food and bills, followed by 53 per cent who need the money to pay for rent, says NUS report. Another 35 per cent say their earnings are used to pay for university fees, while around a quarter use money earned to reduce post-graduation debt, or to avoid getting into debt.
7/19 Parliamentary debate finally triggered over Government’s controversial decision to retrospectively change student loans terms
The news will come as a pleasant surprise seeing as how the Government had rejected a petition just over a week ago, despite it surpassing the crucial 100,000 signatures it needed to make it eligible for parliamentary debate. Consumer champion, Martin Lewis, says: “Parliament has sat up and listened. With a new Government coming in September, there is still time for it to do a U-turn on this disgraceful policy and I, for one, will be pushing as hard and loudly as possible for that to happen.” The debate is set for Monday 18 July at 4.30pm.
Rob Stothard/Getty Images
8/19 Remain and Leave students have two main things in common when it comes to the Brexit result
A combined 91 per cent feel Brexit campaigners “insufficiently investigated” the impact on education, while 57 per cent think their university failed to provide adequate information on the impact of a Brexit vote. Chloe Burgess, director at GTI Media, said: “It’s inevitable opinions would be divided among the student body, but they all share a common interest in playing an active part in their country’s future. This political inclination will, no doubt, be further expressed in the coming months, as university and careers issues are increasingly brought to light post-Brexit.”
9/19 Thousands of graduates working in jobs that don’t require any qualifications
Over 50,000 new graduates are in non-graduate jobs, including lollypop ladies, factory workers and hospital porters, new figures have revealed, leading experts to question the value of costly university degrees in the Brexit climate, employment data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows.
Getty Images/Susan Chiang
10/19 Disadvantaged young people at risk of being put off university if Government raises tuition fees
Non-whites and those who receive free school meals are also more likely to choose low-cost university options if tuition fees are liable to change, says new report ‘Does Cost Matter?’ UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, says: “We risk creating a polarised university system of haves and have-nots where costs determines young people’s choices.”
Ian Waldie/Getty Images
11/19 Worrying trend of ‘drunkorexia’ on the rise among female students
It had been thought that ‘drunkorexia’, the trend of skipping meals in order to save calories to drink alcohol, was anecdotal.However, the practice is very much a reality - and becoming worryingly popular among young women, particularly university students - as it is revealed almost 60 per cent of female undergrads admit to drunkorexic behaviours.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
12/19 University to offer out-of-work graduates half their tuition fees back in cash
The University of Law (ULaw) says its new ‘100% for You’ initiative will also offer a half-price discount to its unemployed graduate lawyers should they wish to pursue a postgrad. Graduates must have been unable to secure full-time employment 9 months after graduation to qualify for the refund.
13/19 Gender discrimination present among students as young as 16, schoolgirls report
Over a third of girls aged 16 to 18 - 36 per cent - say they have witnessed gender discrimination in school. Startlingly, only one in five boys - or 19 per cent - believes a gender divide exists today. Michael Mercieca, chief executive of Young Enterprise, described how the gender divide “remains rife in our education system,” from girls lacking the confidence to pursue leadership roles and to expect higher starting salaries, to the “pervasive belief” STEM topics are more interesting for boys.
14/19 Government confirms funding for EU students in UK to be honoured after Brexit
The Student Loans Company said it has sought to reassure anxious students and applicants from home and abroad about how the EU referendum results might affect the funding of their courses. In a statement on Twitter, Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: “Current students and this autumn's applicants will continue to receive student finance for duration of their course. [The] UK welcomes EU students.” The University of Buckingham, pictured, has the highest percentage of overseas students, a number of whom are from the EU.
The University of Buckingham/Facebook
15/19 York University student gets public apology and £1,000 payout after making anti-Semitism complaints
According to The Sunday Times, 21-year-old law student, Zachary Confino, “suffered stress and narrowly missed a first-class degree” following comments made to him over a period of two years. The comments reportedly included anonymous messages posted to him on social media app, Yik Yak, as well as face-to-face name-calling. University spokesperson says: “The university is committed to preserving the right to freedom of expression while also combating anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and any other form of race hate.”
16/19 European Students’ Union will ‘stand together’ with UK’s young voters post-Brexit
Representing over 15 million students across the continent, ESU president says: “We hope the UK Government and the EU institutions will find a deal that won’t jeopardize students in UK, and that UK universities won’t increase tuition fees to compensate the loss of EU money.”
17/19 UK result would have been Remain had votes been allowed at 16
With 1.46 million 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK - and with that 82 per cent voting Remain - the number would have matched the 1.2 million difference between Out and In, potentially changing the result completely, The Student Room survey finds.
18/19 Access to social media sites more important to students than promotions and bonuses
Access to social media sites is so essential for students in their careers, they would also turn down gym memberships, subsidised lunches, company-provided smartphones, laptops, tablets and cars, and even healthcare and dental schemes, graduate careers app, Debut, finds.
19/19 Student homelessness in London is ‘a hidden problem,’ says academic
Patrick Mulrenan, senior lecturer in housing at London Metropolitan University (LMU), carried out research to find students across the capital are being forced to sleep on floors, stay with friends and relatives, or in council temporary accommodation. He said: We need to find out how many students are affected and encourage them to use the support that is available. We want to use this research to get the message out there that there is help available, and encourage students to tell us if they are homeless.”
“We have worked to target support to the poorest students, and removing that vital help will hurt those who need it most. Plans to cut maintenance grants are wrong and we will fight these plans tooth and nail.
“Social mobility is a real priority and these changes threaten to further entrench inequality. It is something I oppose.”
Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, said he would be fighting to save grants for the poorest university students, which the Government plans to scrap “using a small committee that nobody has ever heard of.” He added: “This is a shockingly underhand and undemocratic way for the Government to behave - which I’m now getting used to.”
In the 2015 Budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced the Government’s intention to abolish grants and replace them, instead, with increased maintenance loans, a change which looks set to have an impact on student perceptions of the value of higher education.
Currently, university students from families with a household income of £25,000 or less are entitled to a grant to cover living costs of £3,387 per year. This grant then decreases as the family’s income increases and come to an end when a household earns more than £42,620.
However, from September 2016 - when the new system will come into place - those students who live away from home outside of London will receive a higher loan amount of up to £8,200, while those away from home in the capital will get up to £10,702. This will then all have to be repaid under the same terms as existing loans once a graduate earns more than £21,000 per year.
- More about:
- David Cameron
- House Of Commons
- National Union of Students
- Tim Farron
- George Osborne
- Maintenance Grant