In today’s Budget it was announced that maintenance grants, aimed at the poorest in society to provide financial assistance while studying at university, are to be scrapped by the government and that the £9,000 cap on tuition fees is set to rise.
At 12:30 today the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, stood up in the House of Commons to announce his ‘Summer Budget’. This was the seventh time that Osborne has delivered a budget from the dispatch box, but the first time that he has done so for a Conservative majority government.
In his Budget the Chancellor declared that the government intends to get rid of maintenance grants which were introduced in order to help students from the poorest backgrounds while studying at university. Currently, students from families with a household income of £25,000 or under are entitled to a grant of £3,387 to help cover living costs.
To replace the grants the he announced that the government would offer students up to £8,200 as a maintenance loan which they would only pay back once they are earning over £21,000 a year.
Osborne said to MPs in the House of Commons that there was a “basic unfairness in asking taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them”. He added: “If we don’t tackle this problem, then universities will become under-funded and our students won’t get places, and I’m not prepared to let that happen”.
However, Megan Dunn, the President of the NUS has condemned the move: “It will mean staying at home instead of moving into halls or shared accommodation and applying for shorter courses to reduce costs”.
She went on to say: “If grants are cut, it could mean the cost of student loans will go up for everyone or repayment conditions will get tougher than they already are. This is yet another unreasonable barrier to accessing higher education”.
The Chancellor also used today as an opportunity to announce changes to the tuition fees cap, which presently allows universities to charge up to £9,000 for studying at their institution. However, today the government announced that they will change the tuition fees cap so that rises with inflation.
Budgets are normally delivered in April at the start of the tax year, however, given that when Osborne delivered his budget it was for a coalition government, he announced his intentions to hold an ‘Emergency Budget’ in July so that he could “turn the promises we [the Conservative Party] made in the election into a reality”.