Maintenance Grants for Students.
By: Remus-Valentin Mihailescu– 1st Year Student
The Government of the United Kingdom is making moves towards the scrapping of maintenance grants for students. This decision has caused negative opinions and unsettled the student population of the United Kingdom. With the approximate number of affected students rising as high as half a million, this issue is of national importance and should be addressed democratically. Should, at least in theory.
It can be said that maintenance grants are crucial for some students in a modern day United Kingdom. With the costs of education rising an incredible 9 times in a ten year period and with the economy making its final moves to recover from the financial crisis, students do often rely on maintenance grants to sustain their living during higher education. It is not the purpose of this article to inquire whether students are economically aware or should do better when it comes to using their available funds. The issue of removing maintenance grants for students is, therefore, a very sensitive subject.
Calculations show that the increase in the cost of an academic year has risen by in the last ten years. Sources suggest that the number of students that decided to follow an academic course This phenomenon can be observed throughout the time period that spans from 2006 to 2016. With the tuition fees being constantly increased, how can the Government decide to scrap the grants that so many UK students rely on? Reliance on the grants cannot be contested in any way. As an international student myself who does not enjoy the benefits of a grant, I can assure you that it is of vital importance to a student who does not have considerable material possibilities. Therefore, the scrapping of maintenance grants could considerably affect some students.
As that issue would not be popular per se, the Government tried to circumvent the democratic debate requested by the NUS by designating a committee to handle the problem. This move by the Government has been described by UK politicians as being either ‘undemocratic’ or ‘shocking’. It seems therefore that the Government did not exactly want the issue to be debated fully in the House of Commons. The National Union of Students has been a vocal critic of this attempt by claiming that while half a million students will be affected by the future decision, only 17 MP’s were delegated to discuss it – that being unacceptable. The constant ‘pressure’ the NUS has exerted finally lead to the debate being planned, putting an end to the Government’s attempt to scrap the maintenance grants via the formed committee. Therefore, it is the House of Commons that will decide whether the grants will be scrapped or not.
This decision has the potential to change the whole view of the student population of the United Kingdom. While in late 2015 student protests were observed that contested the further rise in the cost of higher education, the scrapping of maintenance grants could have even more severe consequences. The Government’s attempt to scrap the grants without a full House vote and debate is the more frightening as we look towards how higher education has been evolving in the past decade. The rise of tuition fees and additional costs corroborated with the possible cutting of maintenance grants leaves us with a not so bright prospect for future students. University is designed to mould people and help the future working population of the United Kingdom. Nowadays students are the future of the United Kingdom, and raising fees and cutting grants does not pave students an easy way to walk into our future careers.
What decision the Commons will make still remains to be seen. However, the Government should look more into the actual struggles of some students, who desperately rely on the grants to continue their academic studies. I for one appreciate the efforts of the NUS who have made this debate possible, highlighting the concern that surrounds the grant issue and the effect it will have on many academic careers.
**UPDATE** The government have now abolished the Maintenance Grant.