Last Wednesday, the government delivered their Annual Budget which outlines the government plans for taxation, spending and other decisions for the year ahead.
Amongst a whole host of decisions (some of which are summarised here) – a number will have a direct impact on students here at Bristol and nationally. This blog will explain these and what we, as your representatives, are doing about them.
Scrapping maintenance grants in favour of loans
Currently, maintenance grants support students from low income backgrounds and are means-tested available to students who have a household income of up to £42,620. The maximum grant currently available to students from the poorest backgrounds is £3,387 plus an additional loan of £4,047. These grants often provide essential support for the costs of living to the very poorest students.
From 2016 these grants will change to loans with the maximum maintenance loan increasing to £8,000 for those students from the poorest backgrounds. These changes will only increase the amount of debt that students face.
We will be in discussions with the new Vice-Chancellor and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor calling on them to lobby the government to keep this vital support.
Commitment to increase the minimum wage to £7.20 for over 25s
Although it is good that minimum wage is increasing, it’s remaining the same for under 25s – whose minimum wage will remain at £5.13 (18-21) and £6.50 (22-24). Students are not exclusively in the 18-25 age bracket but a large majority are.
Some students and graduates under the age of 25 may have extra responsibilities as carers or parents who the government haven’t considered with this arbitrary age cap.
We will be contacting local MPs in Bristol to express our concerns regarding this issue.
Linking tuition fees to teaching quality
The government are introducing a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which aims to ensure teaching is of a good standard.
Those universities that are deemed to provide good teaching by this measure will be allowed to increase tuition fees in line with inflation from 2016/2017.
We will oppose any further increases in tuition fees and increasing amount of debt that students face here at Bristol. We believe that education is a benefit to wider society and should receive greater investment from the government not from individual students.
Consultation on freezing the threshold that which students pay back their loan
Currently students who pay £9,000 start paying their loan back when they earn over £21,000. This was initially going to increase with inflation. However the government are consulting on freezing this at £21,000.
Failing to uprate the £21,000 threshold with inflation will mean that students will start paying back student loans at a lower salary year on year.
We will play an active role in this consultation.
If you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to get in contact with us!