A few months back the government announced that the schools budget in England was to be protected from any cuts. This was part of a wider plan to expand the education system in the country:
The education budget for schools in England will rise to £53bn in 2015, with spending protected in ‘real terms.’
180 free schools will be opened in 2015/2016.
There will be 20 more studio schools opened which allow young people to go and study whilst they are working.
On top of all of this, there will be more opportunities to study more vocational qualifications through the creation of 20 new university technical colleges.
The plans have drawn a mixed response from critics – the leader of the National Association of Head Teachers Russell Hobby supported plans for a ‘fairer national funding formula’, saying that it would help even out budgets which currently “differ by thousands of pounds per pupil for no good reason.”
On the flipside, David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said that the “Government’s promise to protect school budgets has been undermined by this disproportionate 20% cut to the vital support they receive from councils.”
One thing that was criminally ignored in all of this was further higher education cuts – it appears that this government is wilfully slashing budgets in one of the most important educational areas. This policy is not supporting the best, but rather the richest.
The maintenance grant that is given to students where household income is less than £42,000 per year is not to increase with inflation. This will save the government £60m whilst poorer students will find themselves increasingly under pressure. A £3,300 grant subject to a 3% inflation rate will leave students £100 out of pocket, without accounting for the unpredictable nature of the rate of inflation.
The National Scholarship Programme, designed to provide support for the poorest students in the university system, is to be slashed by two-thirds, from £150m to £50m. Not only that, but the current system of helping undergraduates is to be removed and the system will now help postgraduates instead.
I understand that in terms of austerity cuts are needed and £100 over the course of the year doesn’t sound much, but the latter plan is a complete disgrace.
Student loans from the Student Loans Company are not available for postgraduate students (unless you are studying for a PGCE) and so it stands to reason that students will need to self-fund their postgraduate work.
I looked about for some of the fees charged for postgraduate work. Here’s a few examples.
Bristol University – £9,950 per year for an engineering taught postgraduate qualification.
Oxford University – one year on an MBA programme will set you back over £40,000!
Postgraduate medicine at Liverpool University will cost in excess of £6,000 a year.
If a student is not able to get funding for this study then it stands to reason that they are funding this themselves. It also implies that the student in question has an awful lot of money to invest in their education.
I applaud postgraduate work, for the record. But why do they need such support when they are already wealthy enough to pay large fees? I mean, if I’ve got £40,000 of my own money to spend on a MBA programme at Oxford, why on earth would I need money from the government? Add that to living expenses and suddenly we’re talking another £7,000+ on top, all self-funded and you wonder why you need any funding at all.
A clueless government policy helping out the richest people achieve as much as they can, leaving the poorer students to struggle.
The money is better off being given to undergraduates whose student loans don’t even cover their basic living expenses like rent.
A student loan of £3,500 a year doesn’t even cover rent in many places and often parents are found picking up the excess. Add to the fact that a two-parent family earning less than the national average full-time salary each disqualifies their kids from getting grants, and suddenly you find yourself screaming “isn’t this the place for the money to be going?!”