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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Should grants be reintroduced?
An influential former education adviser has added to the calls for student grants to be reintroduced in the UK.

Lord Dearing, chair of a committee whose report led to the introduction of tuition fees, said restoring grants would help to attract students from working class backgrounds.

Others have also argued that grants are the best way to tackle the growing gap between the number of places in the expanding university sector, and the number of student applicants.

Should grants be reintroduced?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I believe that grants should not be brought back

Dafydd Eveleigh, Wales
I believe that grants should not be brought back. The reason for this is very simple. I was a university student and many of the students went through their university years drinking and partying not caring about the degree at the end of it. I regret I was one of those students. I am now investing in myself by paying to go on a computer course. This gives me more motivation and dedication as I am paying out of my own pocket. I know that if I had a grant I would just waste my time again.
Dafydd Eveleigh, Wales

When I finish my degree, I'll be 21 with a minimum debt of 10,000, if not 12,000. What kind of a start to my working life will that be?
Greg Dabbadie, England

Grants should be reintroduced definitely but only in parallel with a rationalisation of higher education. There are just too many wishy-washy, meaningless degree courses out there that serve no purpose other than to keep unemployment figures down amongst the young and amongst lecturing staff.
John, UK

What happens when their children get to university age?

David Edgeworth, UK
People who complain about their taxes going to subsidise 'kids who want to delay work for three years' are extremely short-sighted. What happens when their children get to university age? Are they going to want them to come out three years later thousands of pounds in debt and then have to help bail them out? Our students are our future and the last thing we want is for university to be only affordable for the rich.
David Edgeworth, UK

I was lucky enough to receive a grant for my degree but my brother began university the year grants were abolished. During his period of study the cost of rented accommodation has spiralled at a rate way above inflation. Surely the Government must realise that entering working life with debts upwards of 10,000 is a handicap many will find impossible to overcome.
Mick Goodwin, UK

I was at poly from 1977 to 1981 and had a full maintenance grant. I couldn't have done the course without it. Since then I've had a good job and paid my fair share of taxes so I believe I have/am paying my dues. I think it would be paltry of me to deny anyone the same break I had and am happy to pay my taxes towards student grants confident in the knowledge that their future taxes will benefit others after them. I believe this is how society should work.
Iain, UK

I wanted a degree badly

Lesley, UK
I agree with one of the contributors who makes the point that those who are not prepared to take a loan or at least a financial commitment are probably making the right decision. I had absolutely no chance (financially) of making it to university at the 'traditional' age. However, I wanted a degree badly enough to get a job and achieved it by investing part of my wages and much of my spare time. My social background is unfortunate but was never insurmountable given the desire to achieve.
Lesley, UK

Steve, UK should define "useless degree". Nations need diversity in education, not endless scientists and engineers.
Simon, England

Grants were abolished because under European law a national from another Euro country was entitled to a grant irrespective of whether their parents had contributed any tax to this country.
Ian, England

Unfortunately education remains a privilege

Brian Murphy, Ireland
Unfortunately education remains a privilege, even here in the rich developed West. A "comprehensive" grant system underwritten by the state guarantees equal access to education, while asking those who gain advantage from it to put something back into the public pocket once they are finished. Our society can't afford yet to send every citizen off for those extra three or four years of learning.
Brian Murphy, Ireland

Where is the money coming from? More and more students pass through the university system but lecturers continue to be paid abysmally. Student loans are already a graduate tax in effect, as they are only repaid through earned income after graduation. Rather than pouring money down a grant sinkhole, the Government should ensure the academic infrastructure is properly financed.
Joe, UK

Grants should be reintroduced, but the system should be reformed. Some of my fellow students spend their entire day watching soaps (or drinking in the bar). This is not an education and no grant should be given to these people. Maybe a grant should be based on the course chosen and the degree obtained!
Adrian, UK

It is very sad that student grants were abolished so that the UK could ape all that is wrong with North America. I have just shipped my daughter off to a (pretty cheap) university where the fees are around $7000 per year. Of course, this means that people from poor families cannot go to university and students acquire very large debts. No wonder the UK Conservative Party is in some trouble, you have a Conservative/right-wing government with the "Labour" Party.
Dwayne, Canada

I see no problem paying for my post-secondary education

Nick, UK
I see no problem paying for my post-secondary education. As I see it, I am much more likely to get a better paying job at the end of it. My parents were too poor to help, so I worked full time through my under-graduate degree, in order that I could afford to study. Once I have finished my post-grad education, which I am once again having to pay for myself, I shall get the benefit of that also. The problem in the UK is that both grants and loans are insufficiently funded, leaving those students in real need of help short of grants, and those who can afford to pay back loans with insufficient funds to borrow. There is also the attitude that it is solely society's responsibility to foot the bill.
Nick, UK

The student loan system is probably the best way forward, but it needs refinement. The amount available should be able to cover all likely expenses, including living costs, and should not depend on criteria such as parents' income. I was fortunate enough to attend university with a full grant for 4 years. I still left with a debt of 5,000, although this was repaid in my first 2 years of employment. For our society to develop we need more people to attend further education not less.
Stuart Dawson, Welshman in Hong Kong

Yes of course grants should be reintroduced. I finished university in 1997 and am still in debt. It is ridiculous to think that students (especially from working class backgrounds) will be able to have the education that they are entitled to under the current scheme.
Anthony McCue, England

Those who are really struggling at university can get grants from the union

Chris, UK
Everyone ends up in debt at the end of university even those from middle class backgrounds (with a few exceptions). Those who are really struggling at university can get grants from the union, upon proving they need it. This is a far more effective and efficient way of distributing government money as it gets to those who really need it. Also there is an option to work outside university time which is far from difficult given the amount of free time for many students.
Chris, UK

I believe grants should be re-introduced: 1) to enable poorer students to attend; and 2) since they will more than amply replay the loan many times over in the form of income tax throughout their working lives.
Tony Worsfold, UK

Students definitely need more money available to them, either through grants or bigger loans. That way, students won't have to live in the slums that they're forced to accept "just because they're students". How about a system whereby students can claim back the cost of living and studying by producing receipts, with the student paying a small percentage of an item's cost themselves. That way, they could buy textbooks and take the receipts into college and claim back some funds. Note that you don't normally get receipts for beer.
Jon Kirk, Luton, England

Grants should definitely be reintroduced because it means that everyone can afford university and not just the rich.
Jay, UK

Grants available to those who really need them should be reintroduced

Paul, UK
Grants available to those who really need them should be reintroduced. However, other schemes which do not place huge burdens of debt on to students, like graduates paying slightly higher income tax for a period of time, should be considered. Anything which provides access to university to those who think they cannot financially afford it is of benefit.
Paul, United Kingdom

Reintroduce student grants, but for pity's sake get rid of some of these nebulous courses!
David Milne, Scotland

Yes, go back to the means-tested grant system, and stop penalising bright kids from poorer backgrounds. Let's try and get back to education being a right, and not a privilege.
Jennifer, Scotland

Grants should be available to help those with parent(s) on low-incomes

Andrew, England
The answer is a partial yes. I did my degree on a full grant and would have struggled to even get to university without it. Grants should be available to help those with parent(s) on low-incomes get to university/ college. In addition I would like to see full or partial grants re-introduced for students on particular courses to encourage higher take-up of places. I am thinking here of my area of study - engineering - and similar courses. This latter use of grants should help to produce the engineers/scientists that this country is in desperate need of.
Andrew, England

Yes, but add one percent to the top rate of tax to those who have received them. After the system has been running for a few years the additional revenue from those who have received and benefited from them will subsidise the next generation.
Mick, UK

Even in the days of full grants the majority of students came from wealthier homes. Why should ordinary people support privileged youth financially? Far better would be to raise fees for those who could afford to pay, while providing scholarships for bright young people from less privileged backgrounds. You could automatically disqualify anyone who had attended a fee-paying school (unless on an assisted place) from grants, too.
Jason Peevay, UK

Why exactly should the taxpayer fund students with inadequate qualifications taking substandard courses?

Karen Bigder, England
Why exactly should the taxpayer fund students with inadequate qualifications taking substandard courses at third-rate 'universities'? Places at good universities with high entry standards are filled easily; why use taxpayers' money to meet a ridiculous government target? If 50% of people were capable of studying at university level, it wouldn't be university level.
Karen Bigder, England

Having been awarded a grant to go through university myself I can see their obvious value, especially to the families that are less well off. I can also see that a number of students will take easy courses and drink their grant in the student bars. I believe that grants should be fairly small, enough to cover tuition and basic living costs, but not sufficiently large that students can enjoy the sort of excesses available in the early 90s. After all, enterprise needs to be learned somehow and what better way than working to provide for your own future. Ultimately I think the situation has to be that if you don't want to invest in your own future you have no right to expect the state to.
John B, UK

Of course grants should be reintroduced! In any competitive capitalist society, it is essential that talent and ability should find its way to the top of our professions. All barriers to achievement must be removed, and a level playing field for all is the only economically logical arrangement.
Blewyn, UK

I would like to see grants reintroduced but hope that all of us students who have been suffering massive debts for the last few years without grants will get some sort of compensation. It's getting very desperate for some of us.
Bobina, Madrid, Spain

Of course grants should be introduced

Matthew Illsley, England
Of course grants should be introduced. I graduated this year, and amongst my friends there was an average debt approaching 8k. This is small by a lot of standards but is still a large albatross hanging round our necks when we enter the world of work. Grants should not be in the form they were though; instead they should be in a receipts form as in business, so that you could only spend them on necessary course materials, books and housing say, and not down the pub. This would pacify those saying students would fritter it all away on going out, as well as letting students know that the govt. did have their interests at heart. Education is a right not a privilege.
Matthew Illsley, England

Grants should be introduced for students in useful subjects like, teaching sciences and engineering. Why should the tax paying public pay for students that spend three years doing a degree that is completely useless to both the candidates and the country?
Steve, UK

Why should people who never went to college pay for the university education of a minority of the population?

Simon, UK
I was a student from 1979-81 and was only able to achieve my goal with a government grant. I now live and work in Canada so have not continued to pay taxes in England, however here in Canada student debt is a huge problem with some people paying back loans for decades,and thus not driving the economic engine.
Richard John Porter, Canada

Why should people who never went to college pay for the university education of a minority of the population? After they leave university these people will become professionals anyway, so they can perfectly afford to pay their own loans back. And, if we're worried about poverty, then use an income tax, rather than subsidising a lot of middle class kids who want to postpone work for three years.
Simon, UK

Whilst I think it was utterly stupid to abolish grants and would like to see them reintroduced, I think it should be said that student loans aren't exactly terrible. An interest free loan which you only have to pay back when you're earning above 10,000 a year and only then in instalments dependant on your salary. Try finding a loan policy this good down the bank. Unfortunatly, would-be students just get scared at the words "loan" or "debt", even though this is probably the best financial deal they're ever likely to be offered in their life. The only problem I have with the student loan system is that it is not enough. 3,800 a year only buys so much beer...
James Pittman, England

The government would be wasting their funds to heavily subsidise student drinking sessions

Terence Parker, Hong Kong (&UK)
Student loans which are offered now are, in my opinion, fair. It will pay your fees but you must repay it when you get a job - fair enough. Grants though? As a student I see what others spend their money on. The government would be wasting their funds to heavily subsidise student drinking sessions. If students are tight on cash, don't drink so much!
Terence Parker, Hong Kong (& UK)

Ability to pay should never be a criterion for getting a good education. College students face enough challenges and stress as it is, why should the stress be compounded with mounting debt?
Brian, USA

I wonder how many doctors, engineers and talented people we are missing out on purely because would-be students from poorer backgrounds don't have the funds to go to university.
Diane Rapier, USA, ex-UK

It is important to have equality. It is through equality that we will bring forward "the best".
Shaheen, England

Let all students be given the same opportunity - regardless of family background

Doug, UK
The loan is not enough to cover study and living costs by itself. Lucky students get parents or sponsorship to make up the difference. The others should get a grant. The aim: level the playing field. Let all students be given the same opportunity - regardless of family background.
Doug, UK

As a single mature student it is difficult to decide now that my children are older whether to just get a mundane job or to set sights higher and study, enabling a better job, larger income, giving my children a better start in life. A grant would be helpful and my ambitions could be realised.
Amanda Bouri, England

Student grants should never have been abolished. Education is a RIGHT, not a privilege.
Louise Barton, UK

I think the current scheme of running up a controlled debt is probably best

Richard Philips, London, UK
I think the current scheme of running up a controlled debt is probably best. It is independent of your parents/class/background. You know from day one that you will have to pay it back in the end. It should help as an incentive to do well in your studies, get a good job and pay back the loan in a reasonable time and at a relatively cheap rate. Under the current scheme, the money is accountable, retrievable and eventually recyclable. Going back to a 'grant' mechanism is throwing money down the drain (toilet?). Students who decide not to take on a loan to go to university have probably made the right decision!
Richard Philips, London, UK

It makes my blood boil to think that advanced education is once again becoming a preserve of the rich. Even in my day - grants and all - the Uni's were full of kids from private school!
James mchugh, Scotland

As an American from a large family, I would never have been able to get my degree without student grants and student loans. If England is charging tuition fees to attend university, it should also give need-based grants and/or loans.
Sharon, USA

I think grants should be re-introduced because I don't think people should pay for their education. People should be able to educate themselves out of poverty in the poorer areas to help them not to turn to crime. We'll have a situation in future where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Abbie Thoms, UK

Something should be done for the students who had the misfortune to go to university without a grant

Simon, UK
Definitely grants should be reintroduced. But also, something should be done for the students who had the misfortune to go to university without being able to get a grant - I know a lot of people who are up to their eyeballs in student-loan debt. They are at a serious disadvantage already, but it'll be even harder for them if newer students start getting grants again.
Simon, UK

See also:

10 Sep 01 | Education
Dearing backs return of grants
21 Jun 01 | Education
Student debts reach 6,000
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