The Government have announced plans to enforce sanctions on who may or may not attend university based of Maths and English GCSE results.
In response to the 2018 Augar review, which examined the costs of higher education, the Government have announced that students who fail to achieve a 4 or 5 in GCSE English or Maths will be barred from obtaining student loans including a maintainable loan.
Despite this decision, University leaders have warned that this will prevent many school leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds from attending university as they won’t otherwise be able to afford the £9,250 per year tuition fee or living costs associated with attending university.
Chloé Hampton, Marketing Director at the 93% Club Foundation and VP Media & Marketing for Lancaster 93% Club, shares a similar opinion that “the proposed policy would be absolutely devastating to social mobility efforts in the UK.”
Chloé continued, saying that “this policy would inevitably intensify the already widening state-private divide, and prove severely detrimental to those trying to boost their prospects and break through the ‘class ceiling’.”
Further announcements have been scheduled which include extending the loan repayment period by 10 years, meaning that graduates will continue to pay for their degree into retirement. This decision intends to make more graduates pay off their loans in full to save the Government treasury billions of pounds.
For new borrowers starting courses from next year, the repayment threshold will be lowered to £25k, and their interest rates slashed. The tuition fee is also set to be frozen at £9,250 for a further two years, costing students and the treasury less but effectively cutting university funding further.
In response to these reports the NUS UK President, Larissa Kennedy, has released a statement expressing that these plans “are nothing more than an attack on opportunity.”
Kennedy continued, stating that “this Government parrots the language of ‘levelling up’ but these proposals are classist, ableist and racist: they target those from marginalised communities and seek to gatekeep education. It confirms what the National Union of Students has long suspected – what they called ‘access’ was really a closed door and now the myth of this system has been exposed as a lie.”
According to the Guardian, the proportion of pupils who achieve at least a 4 in GCSE English and Maths is about 71%, however amongst disadvantaged households, this falls to only 52%. This means that up to 48% of pupils from disadvantaged households won’t be able to obtain a student loan.
The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) have commented on this, recognising that these proposals will threaten the future economy and would hinder UK growth. Chief Executive, Dr Joe Marshall has said that “the skills learned at university are the skills needed at work. Blocking capable students from entering university and squeezing university funding at a time when living costs are soaring will reduce rather than grow the talent our knowledge economy needs.”