8 March 2012

Questions over Ministerial decision to freeze allowances and failure to clarify student number policy

The university think-tank million+ has questioned the Government’s decision to freeze at 2012 levels allowances for university students with dependants and students with disabilities. The decision is included in a Ministerial Statement issued today by the Secretary of State for BIS, Vince Cable and the Universities Minister, David Willetts. The Statement sets out tuition fee and maintenance loans and grants that will be available for university students in England in the 2013-14 academic year. Universities are required to submit Access Agreements to Offa for 2013-14 and publish course information for prospective students by early summer. The think-tank has also said there is an urgent need for Ministers to clarify Government policy in relation to student numbers in 2013.

Commenting on the Ministerial statement, Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of the university think-tank million+, said: “No-one can be surprised that the Government has frozen fees at £9,000 in 2013. This is about curtailing the costs of the student loan book although in the long run it will reduce the unit of resource. The increase in maintenance grants in 2013 is welcome and will help students although the 3.2% uplift assumes that inflation will be much lower than in recent years.

“Freezing maintenance loans for all students and in particular allowances for students with dependants and students with disabilities is the wrong thing to do. Help with living costs while studying is very important especially for students with childcare responsibilities and for students with disabilities. It is disappointing that the need for these allowances to increase has not been recognised by Ministers.

“Until Ministers make a decision about whether or not to extend the AAB and core and margin policy, universities will find it very difficult to make firm decisions about fee levels and bursaries in 2013. There is an urgent need for the Government to clarify their policy for student numbers. Rather than extend the market, Ministers would be wise to allow the effects of the radical reforms that they have introduced to be assessed. This would help universities to make firm decisions about fee and bursary levels rather than having to reconsider these later in the year.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. The Ministerial statement can be found here.
  2. The fee caps of £6,000 and £9,000 will be frozen at 2012 levels in 2013 and will not be uplifted with inflation as in previous years.
  3. Maintenance grants available to students from lower income households will be uplifted by 3.2%. This assumes that inflation will fall significantly compared to recent years.
  4. Maintenance loans and allowances for students with dependants and with disabilities will be frozen at 2012 levels.