More than 500,000 students from lower income families may suffer due to plans being considered by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). According to a leaked Government document, the department is considering cutting £350m worth of grants to some of the UK’s poorest students.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Higher Education Minister, David Willetts, and Business Secretary, Vince Cable have been reported to be responsible for the plans which aim to overcome BIS’ £1.4bn budget deficit.
According to the Guardian newspaper, who have seen internal departmental documents, the cuts would come into place after the 2015 general election and will see around one quarter of student grants replaced with loans. Students who come from a household earning of between £35,000 and £42,600 would be likely to lose most, if not all, of their access to student grants under the Government’s plans.
Ministers are said to have been informed that such a move could prevent those from lower income households accessing higher education.
The shadow Universities minister, Liam Byrne, has criticised the Business Secretary, highlighting that the proposed cuts are “fresh evidence that ministers have lost control of university finances” and has called for Vince Cable to “come clean immediately on what on earth is going on, and how he’s going to clear it up”.
The president of the National Union of Students (NUS), Toni Pearce, has also criticised the potential Government plans declaring that “any proposal to balance the books on the backs of the poorest students would be disgraceful. NUS research has highlighted the real difficulties that many students have covering their basic living costs, and has shown the significant detrimental impacts that their financial worries have on performance, dropout rates, and even mental health.”
When a BIS spokesman was asked about the leaked information by the Guardian they refused to comment, merely stating that “a range of proposals are being considered”.