Poor students face maintenance grant freeze

Student maintenance grants will be frozen at previous years’ levels under plans revealed in the chancellor’s 2013 spending review

Students from the lowest household incomes will have their maintenance grants frozen for 2015/16 under plans outlined by George Osborne in the spending review.

NUS vice-president Pete Mercer came out against the freeze, saying that 'cutting support further could make staying in university unaffordable for many'.

Although universities have seen their high-level funding protected, as with the £4.6 billion research budget, funding designed to aid disadvantaged students has been substantially reduced.

In addition to the maintenance grant freeze, the national scholarship programme, strongly supported by the Liberal Democrats, is to be cut back from £150 million to £50 million, and restricted to disadvantaged postgraduates.

The plans, which will save £60 million, are part of an initiative to reform higher education and further education, intended to placing it on a more sustainable financial footing. The government will reduce spending by £400 million in 2015-16.

A maintenance grant is given to those university students whose household income is below £50,020. There are various tiers to the grant, dependent upon individual household incomes. Students from households earning £25,000 or less receive the maximum £2,096 grant. 

Mercer says that more than half of students regularly worry about covering basic living costs, and 'many still need additional financial support so that they make the most of their education'.

The maintenance grant was also frozen in 2010/11 and 2011/12, keeping it to 2009/10 levels. The grant did increase by 12 per cent in the 2012/13; however, this was the year in which fees tripled, with students faced with up to £9,000 in tuition fees.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) defended the changes, pointing to Ucas statistics showing admissions among school leavers from disadvantaged neighbourhoods was at its highest rate ever.

A spokesperson from Universities UK stated that although they would be closely monitoring the situation, they were unsure how the decision would affect individual students. She went on to say that students do not only receive support from the government.