Vice-chancellors have called for maintenance grants to be brought back for undergraduates in England, warning that otherwise, there will be a “significant” impact on student health and wellbeing and their education.
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Steve West, the vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, told the Universities UK annual conference in Leicester that the new government “needs to face up to the cost of living crisis now faced by students and staff. It is hitting them hard”.
West, the UUK president, said the maximum maintenance loan available to students in England this year would be £1,000 less than last year after inflation was accounted for. He said this would leave many students struggling to make ends meet.
“The return of maintenance grants would alleviate some of this pressure, and we urge the government to consider this a matter of urgency,” West said.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers’ union, said: “The government is asking students to pay more for their degrees simultaneously as it is making it harder for them to afford daily living costs. This is unsustainable, and something needs to give.”
Maintenance grants were replaced by loans in 2016, meaning that students now have to pay more debt to fund their studies. The government has defended the move, saying that it ensures that all students have access to financial support regardless of their background.
But critics say that the increase in tuition fees and the abolition of maintenance grants have put many people off going to university, particularly from low-income backgrounds. They also argue that the level of debt that students now incur is a major cause of stress and anxiety.
The government is reviewing university funding, which is due to report later this year. It is expected to consider whether to reintroduce maintenance grants, among other things.
In the meantime, universities are calling on the government to provide more support to students who are struggling to make ends meet. They say this is essential if we want to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to get a degree.
What do you think of the call for maintenance grants to be reintroduced? Would it make a difference to students’ ability to afford university? Let us know in the comments below.
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