Reinstate maintenance grants to help disadvantaged pupils, says university head
MAINTENANCE grants should be reinstated to support disadvantaged people looking to embark on higher education, the head of a group representing 24 leading universities has said.
Restoring the grant system - which saw students from low-income families awarded up to £3,387 a year - would make a "substantial difference" to people who were "nervous" about debt.
The changes came into force in the 2016/17 academic year when the grants were replaced by loans which students would start paying back when they earn more than £21,000 a year.
Speaking to the Independent, the head of the Russell Group, Tim Bradshaw, said: "It could be very targeted, really cost-effective and actually make quite a substantial difference to those from disadvantaged backgrounds who may inherently be very nervous about taking on an additional loan.
"Actually the grant could work in their favour.
"I think if you give a grant to those students then you might encourage even more to consider applying for university in the first place and think it is actually something they can really aspire to - and that it won't land them in additional debt at the end of the day."
Then-chancellor George Osborne said the changes to the grant system was part of a "major set of reforms" which would be "fair to students, fair to taxpayers and vital to secure our long-term economic future".
But Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust, said the reforms could put many low and middle income students off the idea of going to university.
The Russell Group is an association of 24 research universities in Britain and Northern Ireland, and includes Queen's University Belfast.
It has been told it needs "to go further" in improving access for disadvantaged pupils.
But Mr Bradshaw told the paper that government ought to make more funding available to achieve this rather than "putting all the blame on universities".