Mobility and maintenance

Baroness Deech

I am very upset by this change announced in the recent Budget: university maintenance grants for lower income students in England and Wales are to be scrapped from September 2016. Currently, students from families with annual incomes of £25,000 or less get the full grant of £3,387 a year. More than half a million students in England receive a maintenance grant from the taxpayer. This is nothing to do with tuition fees: it is about the resources that students need to keep themselves, incurred largely when they are living away from home in halls of residence or student digs at the university of their choice. Like the tuition fee loan, the new maintenance loans will have to be repaid once the graduate is earning £21K pa. If the student who starts his or her course in 2016 is tempted to borrow the new maximum maintenance loan of £8K a year, they could leave university with debts not only of £27K, as now, but £51K!

What is so especially damaging about this? It is that more students are likely to decide to stay at home and study at their local university, in order to save on living costs. They will not choose a university in another region of the country, or even the most suitable one for them and their discipline, but the nearest. This tendency is a real blow to social mobility. Nothing is more conducive to getting young people from all areas of the UK to meet each other, and foster ambition, develop careers, make friends and break down barriers, than leaving home at the impressionable age of 18 or so, and going to live with others who have chosen the same academic path. If you stay at home to save money, your choice is limited, especially out of London, and you will continue to mix only with your childhood friends and those in your locality.  Born in Town A, study at the University of A, pair up with a fellow student at A, and stay there for evermore, most likely.  Whereas if the maintenance support were an outright grant, the student whose home town was A could decide to move to London or further north without fearing extra debt. The move away to university is much more likely to be a lifechanging event, in a good way.

I grew up in a shabby war-damaged part of London (now a madly fashionable suburb!) and my £300 maintenance grant from the LCC enabled me to live comfortably away from home – the LCC even paid for me to travel home and back to university and threw in something extra for support in the vacations. I wish today’s students could benefit from the same generosity. Instead, immobility is their lot.

4 comments for “Mobility and maintenance

  1. 25/07/2015 at 12:19 pm

    I’ve always had an issue with there being a means tested element of the student support system, given that the whole rationale behind higher fees was that graduates will earn more throughout their careers. Why, in that case, should the level of support depend on their parents’ income? Nothing has to be repaid until they are working, so their parents’ background is irrelevant.

    I know you say the grant has nothing to do with fees, but when fees are £9000 and the maintenance grant £3000, the latter is effectively offsetting the cost of tuition.

    When you went to university, far fewer people went. I would like to think it was the academic elite, but in some cases it was instead the social elite. The only way for a full grant system to be sustainable would be if a similarly small number of people went to university. The elite went to university, while the next tier of students attended polytechnics, typically closer to their home, and the next tier went to the local further education college or did an apprenticeship with a local firm. Is that the system we want now, rather then calling everything a university and pretending they are all as good?

  2. maude elwes
    25/07/2015 at 12:39 pm

    Sometimes I wonder if those of you who are part of our countries movers and shakers really understand or embrace the reality of those who manage to get into power. And this is for either side of the political spectrum. Red or blue.

    When will you ever take on board the absolute fact that the pollitical class, especially Tories, are not into assisitng the poor or disadvantaged to climb the ladder of success. How many times must they bang your heads on the floor to force you to face what you clearly do not want to believe. The clever, or sometimes brilliant, underclass are a threat to their position. They will outdo their bretheren if given the means to do so.

    Look at history and ask yourself why both parties detest selective schools, when the grammar school is the equivalent of what nearly all good fee paying schools are? Eton, for example was set up by Henry IV, not for the rich kids of the world who have parents able to pay annually what most working class families can’t make in a year, but for 70 brilliant poor kids to improve life for all. It was in fact a charity for the deserving poverty stricken. Yes, and now they still have a bursery for that seventy from a minority group or a favoured kid of low birth, even adding one or two from a council estate. In other words a face card to get in as a way to keep its Trust and Charity status.

    Yet, once it was realised by the wealthy as a place of exceptional education and a resulting leg up as a KS it was completely taken over by the monied. No longer a leg up for the poor but a status hall for the rich. Their kids not having to be anything like the mental academic equivalent of the burseried scholars. They would never make it passed selection if it was.

    So, the reason to deny kids from ordinary families who don’t have £32,000 a year plus, Grammar Schools came about. But those who benefitted by going to them, later in Parliament decided, once again, their kids would not shine if the brilliant poor continued to get an Eton like education for free. So, they had to be abolished as they were lacked equality. What nonsense that was. Brilliant children, no matter their finanacial status, can never thrive to their full potential by being steeped in the mundane. In fact, it reduces their chances of excellence by shere boredom. Or, by teachers who cannot abide being outshone and either ignore or put down to the point of insult.

    Although Labour was deemed the ideologists of this loser stance, it suited the Tory class down to the ground. Their offspring could excel as they would choose the school of brilliance by footing a growing and massive bill for it. I notice the push of Kinnocks son into the Commons via the nepitism back door. Certainly not because of his academic brilliance or good looks. Drayton Manor Academy. Mind you I suppose he managed to marry up, which made him the equivalent if IDS. Another intelligence limited shove in.

    So, for New Labour, yet another Tory lite, or, maybe a Tory heavy, from the sound of his complacent mumblings as he pushed himself into the camera lens recently. How did Welsh voters fall for that?

    Bring on Jeremy Corbin. Although Grammar Schools are not one of his vote pushers, even though they should be, along with a sensible immigration policy and banishing political correctness. If only he could bow to the class he wants to appeal to, by adopting the policies we all want, both the poor and the middle classes, he could be our next PM.

    • maude elwes
      27/07/2015 at 6:09 am

      Jeremy Corbyn not Corbin, was meant.

  3. MilesJSD
    02/08/2015 at 11:50 am

    “”Workplace Ability qua ‘Mobility’ ”
    should not usurp, nor be conflatable with
    “Social Integration”
    nor with “Human Development Mobility”
    nor with “Individual Mobility” qua “scooters”, wheelchairs, bed/bath lifts, and so forth.
    Universities are dominantly Workplace subservient, for careers and “decent jobs”
    [Plumbing does not requiire a degree, so it is not a “decent” job ?)

    nor do they even carry in their libraries many, very many, books that are really good advances in Knowledge and in ‘Know-How’ for the Lifeplace
    (75% of a person’s timeframing is spent ‘spending’ their “earnings”
    [Workplaces require simply 40 hours per week i.e. 25% timeframe durting which only the employer is ‘spending’ costs-money, not the employee].
    We [ ‘You’ governors that is whenever you influence this Vital Strategic Issue] need to tackle that Factor (or two factors) if we (you) are to become wholly sustainworthy and make our Human Civilisation longest-term sustainworthy too.

Comments are closed.