Due to miscalculations by the Government, students starting university in 2009 will see their funding drastically cut.
Students from middle-income households who had previously been told they would receive a larger grant than those who started in 2008 will now in fact receive the same amount. Families with incomes over £50,020 will no longer be entitled to a maintenance grant. The threshold had previously been set at £60,000.
It is believed that up to 40,000 new students will lose out on grants that would have been worth up to £524 a year.
The error was noted when the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills admitted it had underestimated the cost of increasing student maintenance grants by £200m. The department, which came into being eight days after Gordon Brown entered No 10 Downing Street last year, had originally only expected a third of students to qualify for the new grants. The actual number was 40%.
The Department had also underestimated the number of university applications put forward this year. The annual cap on new university places has been lowered to 10,000. That limit was originally set at 15,000 new places, and most commentators believe demand for places will outstrip availability.
Speaking in The Guardian, an aide to the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, said: “The issue arose because we underestimated the number of students who would apply. It is the result of our drive to widen participation being so successful that has meant we have had a rise in student numbers.”
But Liberal Democrat spokesman Stephen Williams attacked the government. “A significant number of students hoping to enter university next year are no longer going to be entitled to the grants that they were counting on. This will come as a shock to many young people,” he said.
President of the National Union of Students, Wes Streeting, spoke about the news on the organisation’s website. He said: “Obviously, it very good news that more students from lower income families will be going to university. However, the measures laid out by the government to compensate for this will inevitably hit new students from middle income families at a time when they are struggling to cope with the impact of the credit crunch. The government needs to stop tinkering with grants and fees every year.”
The Lancaster University Press Office said that it was “too early to tell if or how this news will affect Lancaster.”