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George Osborne: Scrapping Student Grants Won't Stop Poorer Youths Going To University

15/07/2015 09:43 BST | Updated 15/07/2015 09:59 BST

Scrapping maintenance grants won't stop poorer students going to university, George Osborne has insisted, saying the new policy was "fair".

During a visit to Macclesfield, Manchester, the chancellor justified transforming the grants, which were available for students from families with incomes of £25,000 or less, into loans.

"A couple of years ago our universities didn’t have enough money and there were rules put in the place by the government, by the person doing my job, saying certain kids couldn’t go to university, even if they had the right grades, because we didn’t have enough money to fund the universities," the Manchester Evening News reported Osborne saying.

"We made some changes on student fees - yes they were controversial. But now we have more kids from poorer backgrounds going to university today than at any point in Britain’s history.

“Now we’ve got to look at maintenance grants, which have grown and grown. They were actually abolished by the last Labour government for a number of years.

“If you can move to more generous loans, giving students more money to support themselves, and only ask them to repay once they’re earning a decent salary, it’s a fair deal.

“It’s fair to the taxpayer as well. Why should taxpayers, many of whom haven’t gone to university, pay towards the grants of students who, quite often, are going to earn more?"

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Osborne added: “This means we’re going to have a really successful university system in the future, and as many students as possible, with the right grades, going to university.”

The move to loans, which was unveiled in the chancellor's summer budget, was met with outrage by many, including those who said they could not have attended university without the grants.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, philosophy professor Beverley Clack said: "I was the first person in my family to go to university. I would not have done that without grants (both at undergrad and postgrad level) as I would have been terrified by the idea of that kind of debt.

"I am horrified at the final scrapping of grants. I think that people from backgrounds like mine will not be able to achieve their potential.

"I owe everything I am, the life I have now, to state support and I am so angry that the clock is being turned back to the 19th century by a government who have no idea about how working people live."

Previously, students who qualified for the grant could receive up to £3,387 a year, which did not have to be paid back. Under the new system, these students could qualify for a loan of up to £8,200 - the highest amount ever offered. However there are fears the colossal amount of debt will put many off from going to university.

A recent survey by The Student Room found a fifth of students said they would not be able to afford to go to university now because of the new policies.