The 2015 summer budget has been revealed by Chancellor George Osborne.

Among measures for Health and Education, the Conservative government announced that maintenance grants for students from low income families will be replaced by loans from September 2016. The maintenance loan will be £8,200 a year.

Addressing the reform, he stated there is a “basic unfairness in asking taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them” and warned that the current grant system is “unaffordable”.

He added: “If we don’t tackle this problem, then universities will become under-funded and our students won’t get places, and I’m not prepared to let that happen”.

“For some students, this funding is what keeps them afloat at university”

First year English student Amy Wilcockson told Impact: “I think it is disgusting that any form of student grant is being cut. For some students, this funding is what keeps them afloat at university when costs of living are already so high”.

She added: “The Conservative Party need to rethink their policies – this may be ‘helping’ the state of the country’s finances now, but the effects could be disastrous, leaving those students who are not as financially able in even more debt”.

Osborne also suggested tuition fees could rise with inflation from 2017-2018 for institutions that offer high-quality teaching.

“While it has been announced in the budget, the nature of the teaching excellence scheme […] is not yet known”

A spokesperson for the University told Impact: “While it has been announced in the budget, the nature of the teaching excellence scheme, which will determine whether tuition fees are raised, is not yet known”.

They continued: “The government is not yet consulting on this and will probably not be until the Autumn”.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation, suggested the reforms will “put at risk” the number of “less advantaged” students attending university.

He said: “Rather than penalising poorer students, it should have a fundamental review of the repayments system”.

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of the Office of Fair Access to higher education, assured that his organisation would “monitor the situation”.

“I will work closely with universities and colleges to monitor whether there are any negative impacts”

He stated: “If this change were to adversely affect further progress, I would be very concerned. I will work closely with universities and colleges to monitor whether there are any negative impacts and to ensure they mitigate those through their access agreement”.

“It is reasonable to link the increase to teaching excellence”

Maddalaine Ansell, Chief Executive of University Alliance said linking tuition fees to inflation is “essential” if universities are to provide world class teaching.

She continued: “It is reasonable to link the increase to teaching excellence and University Alliance looks forward to working with the government to work out how this can best be done”.

Amongst other education related reforms is the plan for new university professorships to be created to mark the Queen’s ninetieth birthday.

Tamsin Parnell

Image: altogetherfool via Flickr

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