Six ways the Conservatives have changed education and keep making life difficult for students in the UK

Nick Clegg got the ball rolling in 2010 - and things have only just begun

Aftab Ali
Friday 31 July 2015 09:38
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Nick Clegg went back on his tuition fees pledge, the Lib-Con coalition introduced £9,000-a-year tuition fees, the Education Maintenance Allowance was ditched, a multi-billion pound scheme to rebuild 715 crumbling schools was axed, the growth in applications to UK universities has slowed – and that’s just the beginning of the state of education in the UK.

Young people seem to keep bearing-the-brunt of tough rules as the Conservatives’ cold, iron grasp continues to tighten around the neck of the student community.

Chancellor George Osborne’s latest Budget announcement – coupled with Home Secretary Theresa May’s unyielding stance on pushing international students out of the country as soon as possible – are, no doubt, paving the way for an entirely new, and not-so-popular, way of life for Britain’s students.

So, how are things looking on the horizon? Here are the six ways in which the Tories are screwing-over the country’s youth:

The end of the maintenance grant

The privately-educated George Osborne a.k.a. Gideon Oliver (really) last week announced that low-income families will not be receiving any more help in sending prospective students off to university. Where before, some 500,000 students from families with annual incomes of £25,000 or less could get the full maintenance grant of £3,387-a-year, as of September 2016, it will be no more.

The idea of the grant – which did not have to be paid back – was to make university more accessible for all, regardless of background.

Now though, as well as taking out a loan for tuition fees, students also have to take out a loan in order to pay for rent and food which looks set to, potentially, leave them graduating university with some £60,000 of debt. Is university still accessible for all, regardless of background?

The rise of the zero-hours contract

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) this year announced almost 1.8 million people in Britain are currently on zero-hours contract. That figure was at one million just two years ago, according to The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The ONS said the majority of those on such contracts – which do not guarantee a minimum number of hours of employment – are in full-time education and more likely to be under the age of 25.

The rise of tuition fees – again?

The Chancellor also announced in the Budget that tuition fees could rise with inflation – above £9,000 – for universities that offer ‘high-quality teaching’ from 2017-18.

Basically, it looks like tuition fees could keep on climbing, effectively making education less affordable for those who have always wanted to study for a degree.

The end of the international graduate

Home Secretary Theresa May has caused outrage by outlining plans to ban international students from working during their studies forcing them out of the UK post-graduation in her continued clampdown on immigration.

Non-EU students can come into the UK, spend tens of thousands of pound to study but, after they finish and no matter how talented they are, they’ll be getting the boot back to their home country. And if they want a work visa here, they’ll have to leave first and then apply to come back.

Professor Paul Webley who is the director of SOAS, University of London and Chair of UKCISA – the UK’s national advisory body serving the interests of international students and those who work with them – told The Independent international students are essential to the UK’s economy because of the money and talent they bring.

He added: “All British Universities, including SOAS, have good systems for ensuring compliance with the student visa system. From our experience, students who stay on after they finish their studies develop very strong links with the UK, and so have an understanding of and affinity for the UK that is of great long term benefit for the country.”

50 per cent of SOAS’s student population is international.

The end of the part-time international student employee

International students who do come into the UK to study will have to make sure they bring a hell of a lot of money with them – as May also looks set to ban them from working during their studies. Why? Because, May says, immigration cheats are abusing publicly-funded colleges. Harsh much?

The non-existent living wage for under-25s

As if under-25s aren’t already feeling the pinch because of zero-hours contracts, no more grants and high tuition fees, they won’t even get the living wage which will be raised to £9-per-hour by 2020. Those students who are lucky enough to have a part-time job and aren’t tied-down by zero-hours will just have to make do with their £6.50-an-hour.

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