Maintenance Grants For Poorest Students To Be 'Slyly' Axed - Without A Commons Vote

14/01/2016 08:30 | Updated 14 January 2016

The government looks set to quietly axe the student maintenance grants in a committee on Thursday, without giving MPs a chance to vote against the controversial proposals.

The plan to scrap the grants, which help around half a million of the poorest students pay for rent, bills, food and other necessities, will be pushed through without a vote or debate in the House of Commons.

student fees london

Thousands of people holding placards take part in a student protest against university tuition fees in London,

In Wednesday's PMQs, Labour MP Paul Blomfield pointed out the cuts were due to be passed by a "third delegated legislation committee", and would not pass through the main chamber of the Commons.

Students from low income backgrounds - parents with a combined income of £25,000 or less - who could previously apply for the grants will now have to apply for a loan instead, which they will be forced to pay back.

Research published on Thursday revealed two fifths of parents from low incomes believed their children will be discouraged from applying to university if grants are replaced with loans.

The figures, published by the NUS, also found 55% of all parents think the move to axe grants would undermine the government's objective to increase access to university for poorer students.

Graduate Jasmine Welsh said she wouldn't have gone to university without the financial support while Emma Chorley said she did not know what she would have done without her maintenance grant.

"I come from a divorced home where my mum's income is way below the national average despite her working full time," she explained.

"Aside from the monumental mess Student Finance made of my loans in general, I don't know what I would have done without my maintenance grants, they were generous and essential to the huge amount of students who aren't able to call their parents to tap them up for money when they've run out."

At the time, Osborne insisted: "It is fair to students. Fair to taxpayers. And vital to secure our long term economic future."

Commenting on the "sly" plans to axe the grants, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "This is a very frightening prospect for young people and their parents. This is a typical Tory reaction, they don’t understand what it is like to struggle.

“We have worked to target support to the poorest students, removing that vital help will hurt those who need it most.

“Plans to cut maintenance grants are wrong and we will fight these plans tooth and nail. Social mobility is a real priority and these changes threaten to further entrench inequality."

In a blog for HuffPost UK Labour MP Wes Streeting, who is a former NUS president, said: "No doubt clever government whips hoped that using an obscure parliamentary process would minimise the political damage to the Tories' reputation, but it is scandalous that such a major decision is being taken in this way.

"These grants were won as part of a hard-fought deal by previous generations of student leaders and parliamentarians who convinced successive governments that, if they were going to ask graduates to pay more for their university degree, it was only fair to help those from the poorest backgrounds to meet the costs of studying with a grant."

He added: "The poorest students will be hit hardest."

Megan Dunn, the president of the National Union of Students, said MPs "must choose" to save maintenance grants.

"We cannot allow proposals that attack lower income families to become a reality. If the government truly cares about widening access, it must urgently halt its plans to shut out poorer students from their education."

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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