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Abolition of maintenance grants for the poorest students will bring irreversible consequences

The European Students’ Union expresses serious concerns at the Government’s plans to abolish maintenance grants for the students from lower socio-economic backgrounds in England. The introduction of these plans has been extremely worrying, both for their consequences for the most disadvantaged students and for the procedures pursued by the Government in passing the relevant regulations through Parliament.

Currently more than 500,000 students in the UK receive a non-repayable maintenance grant. This financial support is a vital lifeline for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and helps them with costs such as rent, food, energy bills and study materials. The proposal to replace grants with additional loans will saddle some of the poorest students with up to £53,000 of debt when they leave university.

“It is unacceptable to burden young people with such a huge study debt, especially now in times of economic uncertainty and rising youth unemployment. Instead of supporting today’s youth in developing new skills and knowledge to create a better future, we are discouraging them and stealing their basic right to education. If talent can be found everywhere and in anyone, why should be make it increasingly difficult for underrepresented and vulnerable groups to access higher education?” says Fernando Galan, Chairperson, European Students’ Union

What is even worse is that because the poorest students who need the money most will be obliged to take loans, they will leave university having the biggest amounts of debt. This is not progressive and will leave irreversible consequences on access to higher education for the underrepresented students, having negative impact on the development of society, social mobility and diversity of the Academia.

After all, the higher education sector including the students were not consulted regarding the abolishment of the grants.The lengths to which the Government has gone to avoid scrutiny of this decision in Parliament are outrageous, from introducing them as a statutory instrument to sneaking them through a Delegated Legislation Committee without a proper vote; to the failure to publish the interim equality impact assessment.

The European Students’ Union calls on the authorities to withdraw these regulations until there has been adequate time for consultation on plans that will risk the choice and opportunity for half a million of the poorest students in England and scrap the human right to access the education.


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