Student maintenance grants will be scrapped after the Commons voted to continue with the government’s proposed changes, which sees maintenance grants, designed to help students from low income backgrounds pay for basic living costs, replaced with a loans system.
Labour used their opposition day debate to call on the government to abandon plans to end the maintenance grants system, after a committee of just 18 MPs voted to go ahead with the changes last week. However the government won the vote, with 306 in favour of scrapping maintenance grants and 292 voting against.
The vote means that from this autumn, the means-tested maintenance grants will be switched to loans payable after graduation. The replacement of grants with loans will increase the debt students graduate with, from £40,300 to as much as £53,000.
The move has attracted widespread criticism, with students blocking Westminster Bridge to coincide with Labour’s opposition day motion in protest at the government’s proposals.
Megan Dunn, president of the NUS, said the grants had been a “lifeline” for students, while in a blog on HuffPost UK Hope Worsdale, a member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) wrote: “it [the government’s proposals] is such an unashamed and direct attack on working class students. This decision sends young people a clear message: if you’re from a low-income family, you will be singled out and made to pay for it”.
Skills Minister Nick Boles has defended the government’s move, claiming, “A party’s attitude towards student finance is a leading indicator of its fitness to govern. In opposition a party will take the irresponsible route in an attempt to curry favour with the National Union of Shroud-wavers, I mean, sorry, Students. In Government it will suddenly discover the merits of a sustainable system of student finance that is fair to students and taxpayers alike”.
Mr. Boles’ “Shroud-wavers” comment has caused outrage, with many opposition speakers urging him to withdraw his remarks.