Students face ‘postcode lottery’ when applying for university

UNISON condemns the increased pressures on poorer students wishing to enter higher education

Changes to vital support for poorer students wishing to enter higher education is in danger of leading to a ‘postcode lottery’ in the search for college places, UNISON warned today.

In last week’s budget the chancellor announced his intention to scrap the maintenance grant that is currently assisting more than 500,000 students from low-income families, replacing it with a loan.

This came after the government announced further proposals for universities to raise tuition fees above the current maximum limit of £9000.

The combined result of these moves will be highly detrimental to students from poorer families, deterring them from applying to university or, if they do, committing them to even greater levels of debt.

In response, universities in England have agreed to offer more incentives to poorer students, with the intention to spend £750m on outreach activities, bursaries and the waiving of fees.

But UNISON believes that this response could also have a detrimental effect.

Jon Richards, UNISON’s national secretary for education and children’s services, commented today: “Not all universities will be offering the same financial support or incentives to students.

“And this will inevitably lead to a higher education postcode lottery, making choices for study based on overall cost rather than the course of study and quality of teaching.”

Mr Richards added that the withdrawal of maintenance grants was “an outrage” that went against the principle that higher education should be available for all those who are qualified and wish to study, regardless of social or economic background.

“This government talks of aspiration and opening up access, yet constantly looks to cut support for low-income families.”