University Alliance has joined forces with the National Union of Students (NUS), Universities UK, Million Plus and the Association of Colleges to call for the next government to reinstate and extend non-repayable maintenance funding for all students studying a higher education qualification. Together, these organisations represent seven million students, over 550 students’ unions, over 100 universities and over 300 colleges.
Maintenance grants were removed by the government in the 2015 Budget. They were replaced with maintenance loans, which means that those students who qualified for the highest levels of maintenance funding graduate with the highest amount of student debt. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, this means that the poorest students will accrue debts of £57,000 before graduation.
Governments in other parts of the UK have maintained or increased their grant funding, leaving English students out of step with their peers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and graduating with the highest overall debts.
The group has called for:
- The reinstatement of non-repayable maintenance grant funding for students studying higher education courses in England
- The extension of this funding to cover all level 4, 5 and 6 qualifications, both technical and non-technical
- The funding package to increase annually with inflation and take into account the rises in cost of living since the grant was scrapped.
Professor Debra Humphris, Chair of University Alliance and Vice-Chancellor of University of Brighton said: “Higher education can be a transformational experience, but the current system doesn’t offer all students the means to succeed, and even penalises those from the poorest backgrounds.
“The next government must urgently reinstate and extend maintenance support, to ensure equal access for all to the life-changing opportunities higher education affords”
Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS National President, said: “Restoring and extending maintenance funding is fundamentally a question of justice. Scrapping grants was an ideological move from a Conservative government desperate to shrink access to education and penalise the poorest for their ambition.
“I am proud to stand with leaders across the education sector to be clear that the next government must reintroduce and extend maintenance grant funding for students. Those of us who spend our time advocating for the rights and improvement of students and higher education see the effects that their removal has had on students’ lives, and it is time for the next government to take swift action.”