Leader of the Russell Group of universities, Tim Bradshaw, has today called for maintenance grants to be reinstated for students as a way of increasing diversity on campus, particularly those coming from a lower income.
Speaking to the Independent, Mr Bradshaw cited how the “students loans system is very complicated and difficult to understand” and that reintroducing a grant system would encourage “more to consider applying for university in the first place”.
Further elaborating, he noted how a maintenance grant “won’t land them (students) in additional debt at the end of the day”, with the Institute of Financial Studies (IFS) calculating that an average undergraduate comes out with around £50,000 debt.
Maintenance grants were scrapped in 2016 by the then Chancellor George Osborne, citing that they were “unaffordable” at an estimated cost of £1.57 billion a year.
Instead, current university students are given a maintenance loan, which is based on your household income and is expected to be paid back to the government when that person starts earning more than £21,000 a year.
Studying at Kent, the maximum maintenance loan one can receive in the 2018/2019 academic year is £8,700.
Whilst there was a maintenance grant system before 2016, it is not yet known how such a system would be implemented today.
Russell Group, a group of 18 leading universities, are also planning to contribute proposals to a government review of post-18 education into how maintenance grants could be potentially reintroduced.
If the original system were to be reverted to, students would receive a smaller loan but with a potential £3,500 they would not have to pay back.
Whilst other options are also being considered, it is not yet known how the current government would act on such a review, with the same party in government having only scrapped maintenance grants two years ago based on economic concerns, which have only worsened since.
Students across the country have been reacting to the announcement with various degrees of optimism, as a second year student in Northampton cited how “the current maintenance loan system almost doubles the amount of money I owe till I’m 50” another claiming cautiously “I wouldn’t turn it down, but at the same time I don’t think there’s much wrong with the old system”.
More significantly, one current apprentice admitted that reintroducing maintenance grants would have “potentially” changed his mind on going to university, further elaborating that; “I did fit into the highest bracket for a grant”.
However not all reactions to this news by students have been positive as one third year noted how “the government would have to take the money that they get from us from somewhere else” and consequently might not be “such a good idea”.
The University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University have been contacted for comment.