NUS slams ‘shameful’ Government descision on bursaries

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The NUS has criticized the Government’s decision to change the regulations governing student bursaries, saying the poorest will be disadvantaged. Under new guidance announced by Innovation, Universities and Skills Minister David Lammy on 23rd July, universities are no longer obliged to provide bursaries which cover the gap between maintenance grants and tuition fee limits.

From 2010, the maximum tuition fee limit will be £3,290, an increase of 2% from £3,225 in 2009. However, the maximum maintenance grant of £2,906, given to students with household incomes below £25,000, will be frozen. Together with the statutory bursary of £329, this leaves a shortfall of £55, a decision which the NUS feels could deter the poorest students from applying.

“[This] is nothing short of shameful,” said NUS VP for Higher Education, Aaron Porter, in a statement released the same day  the guidance was issued. “In 2004, we were told that universities would only be allowed to charge top-up fees if they guaranteed that poorer students would not be out of pocket. The Government has now gone back on its word.”

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) expects universities to ‘seriously consider’ offering bursaries that leave no shortfall. However, it feels that some institutions may prefer to use the extra money on other methods of widening participation.

LUSU’s new Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Danny Ovens, plans to keep an eye on the situation to ensure it doesn’t become a problem for students at Lancaster. “It may not seem like a lot of money but in this continuing downturn it really matters,” said Ovens. “I agree with the stance of the NUS in that the government is allowing the poor to get poorer.”

Changes to Lancaster’s bursary system have been made, however, in the hope that new students will not be affected. All students starting degrees in 2010 with household income below £34,000 will receive a bursary of £1,000. For students starting in 2009 there is a sliding scale: those with household income below £18,360 will receive £1,315, whilst those below £27,800 will receive £500.

For information, advice and guidance on student funding and budgeting, Student Services runs a Money Doctors programme, based in A21 University House.

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