In a drastic move the Government is to remove maintenance grants for English students. A movement that Prime Minister Cameron ruled out in 2010,“We must always help people from lower income backgrounds go to university, that’s why we should keep bursaries and expand bursaries.”
However, as stated in Osborne’s Budget, bursaries are to be cut for English students. The bursaries are worth up to £3,387 and are currently given to around 500,000 English students. The move will see grants instead switched to loans, meaning those on a lower income will leave university with a higher level of debt. To compensate the level a student living outside of London is allowed to borrow will increase to £8,200 per year.
The Welsh National Assembly blocked the move being enforced onto Welsh students by allocating some of its budget to compensate the scrap. However the movement of funding now means resources could be taken away from other Welsh projects.
Many English students have already been effected by the Conservative’s policy in regards to students. In 2010 tuition fees were raised from £3,000 to £9,000, meaning one year of university tuition for an English student was
comparable to a whole 3-year course for a Welsh student.
Last week saw Labour try to block the motion through annulment, citing the method by which the policy came into effect. No vote took place to pass the policy with the Government instead using other means to side step a vote in the Commons.
SU President, Lewys Arôn, posted on Facebook that he had spent Monday morning on the phone to MPs “urging them to OPPOSE the scrapping of maintenance grants”. The President also went on to say that ““the only way for students to voice their opinions on these matters is to vote”, something which massively contrasts when compared to how the government pursued the new policy in the first place.
Robiu Salisu, the SU’s Education Officer, also threw his support behind reversing the scrapping. When asked, Robiu stressed on the importance of people to contact their local MP, saying “We must be engaged in the political sphere if we are to reverse the changes that has been put forward”. Mr. Salisu also mentioned interactions with English students saying they were “telling me that they would not have come to University if it was not for the fact that they had maintenance grant”.
More than just the SU voiced concerns, both for and against the Government’s decision. Dan Williams, an
Engineering student currently in Switzerland, said he was glad it is gone. He also mentioned that it was fairer to allow students from all backgrounds to receive a higher amount in loans, adding “with this new scheme everyone’s student finance goes up which is a good thing”.
Another student, remaining anonymous, said that they were glad the loan was gone as it meant they had to “juggle a job, my degree and on top of that have a loan” just because they come from a high income family.
Not all students were for the notion though, Tomos Hooper, a student in Aberystwyth, said he was “glad I took my grant out for this year as something to fall back on”. He also led on to say that “At this point there is little benefit in going to uni for job prostpects unless it is a high ranking institution, the renown of which will give you higher chance of a job with income to afford paying the loan”. Tomos also wondered about student potentially being driven abroad, “I mean we have the EU right? Oh wait”.
Swansea’s students weren’t the only people involved. Students in Westminster blocked Westminster Bridge for over an hour and a half in retaliation to the new scheme before eventually being cleared by police. It is the 2nd protest in regards to students in the last month as junior doctors also took to the streets in response to Government plans to increase their workload.