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Government Freezes Maintenance Grants

Jul 02 2009 23:59
Lawrence Weetman
The Government has decided to freeze the amount given to students in the form of maintenance grants, despite increasing tuition fees and loans.
In this heatwave, why is anyone complaining about anything being frozen?

The Government's Higher Education Minister, David Lammy, has made a statement announcing the tuition fee cap, tuition fee loans and maintenance grant levels for the 2010-11 academic session.

It is important we make decisions in the interests of students, universities and taxpayers alike, particularly in tough times.
Higher Education Minister, David Lammy

The cap on Tuition Fees is to rise by 2.09%, to £3,290 per academic year, for students beginning university in 2010. This is in-line with inflation, and tuition fee loans are set to rise to meet the higher costs.

However, Mr Lammy's announcement included the revelation that maintenance grants - used by students to cover things such as accommodation, food and materials for their courses - are to be frozen at the same level as the 2009-10 session. This is the first freeze in the grant since the system was introduced.

The written statement said that, "in these difficult economic times, we are continuing to take difficult decisions in the interests of students, universities and taxpayers alike. We have therefore decided to maintain the current package of maintenance support for full-time students, reflecting the current low inflationary environment".

We recognise that inflation is low but were it to rise, we hope that in the interest of students, the Government would reconsider.
Chief Executive of Universities UK, Diana Warwick

It has also been reported in recent days that the proportion of new students that are from the four poorest socio-economic groups has risen from 18.1% to 21% last year. As many of these will claim the maintenance grant, this may have been a factor in the government's decision.

The Russell Group of Universities, of which Imperial College is a member, said that the announcement "demonstrates the difficult decisions that have to be made during a recession but it remains vital that income from fees keeps pace with inflation".

The comment from the Russell Group said that whilst tuition fees helped to prevent a decline in Higher Education funding, funding for higher education in Britain is still significantly lower than in most other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

For all the Prime Minister's warm words and promises that education would not become a victim of the recession, we are yet to see any actions to back up his rhetoric.
General Secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt

Wes Streeting, President of the NUS - which has recently produced a controversial report on tuition fee reform - said that the freeze in grants "will be felt in students' pockets", arguing that the "inflation rate is being applied where it suits universities, but not where it will improve student support".

The Conservative shadow skills secretary, David Willetts, also hit out at the freeze, saying that "in his first week as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown promised to increase financial support for students. But he has run out of money and he has been cutting back support for students ever since".

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