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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 12:30 GMT
Student grants: Is the situation fair?
Student grants graphic
The National Assembly for Wales has announced it is to reintroduce maintenance grants for students, first abolished in 1997.

This means £41m will be allocated on a means-tested basis to some 43,000 Welsh students, whether they chose to study in Wales, England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

A similar plans was announced by the Scottish Parliament whereby grants were returned providing applicants stayed in Scotland to study.

Meanwhile, students in England have no maintenance grants and have to make do with student loans.

Click here to read the full story

Do you think the situation as it stands is fair? And will means-tested grants really make a difference to the less well-off?

THIS TALKING POINT IS NOW CLOSED. A SELECTION OF YOUR VIEWS ARE PUBLISHED BELOW:

The same deficit is facing Northern Irish students as well as English students. So why does one half of the country start their new careers virtually debt-free in comparison to others. Explain to me how we're supposed to be living in a democratic society.
Catherine McConnell, Scotland

In an ideal world, I feel that every student should have a grant and that tuition fees should be paid for them by the government
Caron Jenkins, Cymru

I think it is wrong to force our gifted young people (so much needed by this country) to begin their working life in debt.
Linda, UK (England)

It seems that we are stuck on the 'poor student' stereotype. Did not a recent report suggest that £26 a week was spent on alcohol on average by students? For an academic year that's almost the cost of the current level of tuition fees. Though you can argue that part of being a student is socialising, is it fair on today's tax-payers to provide money to help in this 'essential' (and costly) part of student life?
John, UK

Make those with higher incomes pay. Great, but why not do it the other way around. Since the government is convinced that graduates will be higher earners they should pay a percentage of their wage for the rest of their life - those who get the most out of a degree pay more. Surely this is fairer than putting the onus on parents.
Matt, UK


Speaking as a Welshman this seems terribly unfair to prospective students from England.

Andrew, Britain
Would it not be better to admit fewer people to university, but fully fund those who do? Look at the number of jobs that ask for a degree, but do not specify any particular subjects. This implies that no knowledge gained at university is relevant to the job. Therefore, is there actually a need to have a degree in order to do these jobs?
Steve, UK

Speaking as a Welshman this seems terribly unfair to prospective students from England. The obvious solution for them would be to have their parents swear a legal oath of disownment and register a P.O.Box address in Cardiff or Edinburgh. Ask your solicitor.
Andrew, Britain

What about those students who are coming out of university now with an average debt between £12,000 and £15,000. Grants may be brought back in but it will be too late for some. I wouldn't wish that kind of debt on anyone. I'm glad that grants are being reintroduced, but what about those of us who just happen to have started university at the wrong time. Will we get any compensation?
LK, N.Ireland

I welcome the return of grants to these students - and wish that the grants were again available to all. However I do not think they should be means tested -there should be a set amount for each student.
Rachel, UK

All students should get free higher education if they want it, but only if you attend your local College/University with allowances for people who have to travel to their nearest college/university or live there, if you want to travel and live away from home then you pay for that.
Steve, Scotland

So, the assembly are to ring fence £41million to provide grants to 250,000 students, an average of £164 per head, big deal. Or at the level of £1500 per head they will help 27,000 students, what about the other 223,000. Nice publicity for Ms Davidson and her fellow travellers but a very small drop in the ocean.
Gareth, Cymru

How about refunding the fees and course costs to any student upon successful completion of the course? That way we would be rewarding those who truly want to work at getting a degree as opposed to subsidising countless thousands of cider-swilling layabouts who simply want to avoid getting a job and contributing for a few extra years?
Shaun, Teignmouth UK

Perhaps a fairer system would be for the students to be given a sum of money ( call it what you like, a grant, a loan, an disbursement - whatever ) to finance their living expenses and academic needs, with a bit left for a few beers and R&R, which is repaid in one of two ways: It is written off when the student graduates with their degree and gains useful employment as a result of it, or it is paid back in full if the student fails or drops out, with obvious exceptions for circumstances beyond their control.
Chris B, England

I think this topic poses a larger question. Why do Wales and Scotland have their own parliaments yet England does not. The system is a mess, surely there should be one UK parliament, controlling taxes, funds and policies for the whole of the UK, or separate England, Scotland and Wales parliaments, each collecting and using their own taxes, making their own policies and elected by their own people. What we have now is a messy mixture of both.
Ben, England

Free mass tertiary education is a joke. Why should boilermakers and cleaners subsidise some intellectual mediocrity who majors in Renaissance French literature or the History of Feminism? Virtually none of the greatest thinkers in history were academics, so where's the value in a bunch of second rate middle class kids going to university for beer and skylarks at the taxpayers' expense?
Alex, Australia

The means testing helped students from poorer families penalised students from middle class families. I feel the fairest system is one that treats all students equally and does not depend on the student¿s background. Also this would help all students who want to go to university when the parents are against it.
Caroline, England


I would be interested to know where the money for these grants is coming from

Matthew, England
I would be interested to know where the money for these grants is coming from. If it is coming from the pockets of Welsh taxpayers, then it is entirely reasonable that the Welsh Assembly can spend it on the Welsh as it sees fit. However, if this money is coming from English, Scottish and Northern Irish taxpayers too then it does seem to be an unfair practice.
Matthew, England

I'm glad that the students of Wales and Scotland will have the same opportunities I had, and for devolution bringing about more rational resource allocation in those nations than is possible here. However, to what extent have these privileges been possible due to the subsidies English (and particularly London) taxpayers give to the Welsh and Scots?
Tom, England

The re-introduction of grants is a positive, encouraging step forward. However, I'd still like to challenge anyone in Westminster to live for a year on a £3,800 loan and then tell me that the current system is alright by them.
Corin, England

I was at university when the grant system was still being used. My flat mate was forced to drop out of university due to the means testing. Because of her parents' wages she only received minimum grant, however as they had other commitments, including 3 other children, they were unable to supplement her grant to the full amount. She tried to get a loan or overdraft, but was refused. The means testing helped the students from poorer families but penalised students from middle class families.
Caroline, England

I think student grants were a good thing in their time. It was okay when only the top 5% were going to university, but in these days of mass higher education with 30-40% entering higher education, I don't see how this can be financially viable in the long term. With regard to tuition fees, having worked in education for a number of years, I know that a large number of students still get all or part of their fees paid for by their local authority, so students are not really as badly off as they make out.
Caroline, Wales

It is not fair that Scotland and Wales get grants while English residents do not get a penny. Obviously there is money to finance the grants so English residents should get the same privileges.
Pascale Harrison, England


as a parent who feels a degree is the best way forward for their youngster with average income and a happy marriage you have to put up and shut up

Donna, England
It's nice to see that the Welsh assembly is listening to the people of Wales, the majority of people in Wales, I imagine, are in favour of reintroducing maintenance grants. Unlike the UK parliament which doesn't listen to the people it's meant to represent. Just about everyone I know wants tuition fees abolished and a reintroduction of maintenance grants. Why should Tony Blair's education have be free but not every one who's at university now?
Rich, UK

My son leaves school after A levels this summer. He did want to go to university, but as a single parent l lose much needed income, I don't know whether we can manage it. If he does he will have to work his way through college. This gives less well off students a bigger disadvantage than just larger student loans to pay off on graduation, as the time available to study is balanced against the need to do paid work to pay his way.
Kathie, England

Congratulations to the Welsh Assembly for having the boldness and the vision to actually go ahead and reintroduce student grants. Thousands of Welsh students will benefit from this, although the grant by itself remains paltry and goes no way to relieving student poverty. The onus is on a Westminster government too mean and short-sighted to see the damage its higher education policies have done.
Brian, Northern Ireland

There should be a basic a standard of living grant for all students in higher education regardless of ability or parents' wealth. To give grants to some whilst not to others because of the ability of their parents to pay is discrimination. Jim, England

The current idea of a student loan is the fairest means of supporting the education system. It is the tuition fees which introduce the unfairness of it all. Once again Mr and Mrs Average pick up the tab. Unless of course you know how to play the system. Proving your separated, or going to the extremes of a divorce so as not to have to pay the fees are an option. Otherwise as a parent who feels a degree is the best way forward for their youngster with average income and a happy marriage you have to put up and shut up.
Donna, England

The only thing I can say to this is that perhaps as people in the English regions see the positive benefits that Scotland and Wales can make by having independent policies, they will be inspired to wake up and demand the same rights for their families. Devolution doesn't have to mean not being British, but it certainly can mean that regional changes can be made that meet the needs or aspirations of our distinct group of people of the UK
Scott, England

Well I'm all for it. I'll have to take out the maximum loan of over £3,000 per year, but still this grant will help. This will mean that more people will go to university and get higher education. How can that be a bad thing?
Ian Edwards, Wales

The current policy on student funding can best be described as pathetic! The scheme makes no sense, for example if you are from a poorer background you get a larger amount of loan, thus you are in more debt when you leave university. So how can Tony Blair defend his policy when students from poorer communities are in greater levels of debt because of the system. So can somebody explain to me how this policy works, what happened to Tony Blair's famous "Education, Education, Education" speech? How did he manage to make more of a mess than the conservative party?
Ash, Birmingham UK


The introduction of means-tested grants by the Welsh assembly, and the Scottish Parliament abolishing tuition fees shows what happens when national decisions can be reviewed on a local scale.

Matthew Mee, England
What I'd like to see is for students to be able to fund their education no matter what background their parents have. What I current object strongly to is means tested tuition fees - my parents had saved money to help me go to university and, with the introduction of fees, this money counted against them.

I believe the following measure would improve the current situation. The scrapping of means testing for everything and the implementation of a financial support infrastructure to enable any student to go to university, making no distinction between student backgrounds.
David, England

Much amused to see the first contribution is claiming that the "English will be discriminated against" which is pathetic. Good to see the Assembly Government is at last doing something worthwhile (next year's elections in mind?) which proves there is a first time for everything.
Mark Jones, Peru

The introduction of means tested grants by the Welsh assembly, and the Scottish Parliament abolishing tuition fees shows what happens when national decisions can be reviewed on a local scale. Plans that seem workable by mandarins at Westminster are discovered to by impractical. The Welsh should be applauded for this discussion, and so should the Scots for theirs.

Why doesn¿t Westminster decide to reverse its 1997 decision to abolish the grant. Should it decide to abolish tuition fees, or introduce grants, please do it for students who are already in Higher Education.
Matthew Mee, England

The harder you are willing to work and generate wealth, the less support you get from the state that gets proportionally more money out of you. Students should all get the same amount. This constant putting down of those that achieve is a disease, let's celebrate success for a change.
Pete, Wales

Gill's "knock 'em while they're down" attitude is not very civilised. We're not talking about a short-term, low-cost consumable like a chocolate bar! Low incomes simply do not cover the high costs of studying. Even if you view education purely as a personal investment (and not one which benefits the whole country and its future generations, perish the thought!), surely you can see that potential debts deter people from making that investment?
Richard, UK

I think its terrible that English students are discriminated against in this way. Either bring back means-tested grants for all UK students or none at all. I was lucky enough to get a means-tested grant when I was at university and I certainly would have thought twice about higher education if I had not been able to do so.
Ali, England


I believe that education should be free for everybody, but can't see that being the case ever again.

Kath, Wales
I cant believe there are selfish people out there who want a universal grant system. With funds limited, a grant for the less well off is an absolute must. Those of us who can afford it should contribute to our children's upkeep during university. How many kids from poorer families will miss out because of a lack of grants and a fear of enormous debt? Scotland and Wales are doing the only equitable thing for future generations, England should follow suit. The big problem will be getting over the Blair ego to climb down over this.
Graham, Scotland

It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. Education should be available to all, based on merit not ability to pay.
Rob Phillips, Wales

Student grants are an investment in the future of the country. It may be catchy to say people should pay for something that gives them benefit, however, if the effect is that the average education of the country declines then is that worth the political points. When I was a UK tax payer I would have been happy to pay more in tax so the educational system would be properly funded. At the same time graduates aren't particularly well paid, which is why I'm in the US now. Currently the UK has the cost of education without the benefit.
Chris Hann, USA

I believe that education should be free for everybody, but can't see that being the case ever again. We have to make sure we have as level a playing field as possible. University attendance should be based on ability not wealth. These grants will hopefully mean that able students from poorer backgrounds will feel that they have a chance to go to university.
Kath, Wales

Every day when I wake up I thank the Lord for the Welsh Assembly. What they have done is a historic landmark - and one by which Westminster will be judged and found to be lacking. Means-tested grants make a difference to less well-off students because the current loans system means that students from low socio-economic groups are put off from continuing their education as they do not want to graduate with an average debt of £12,000.
Jo Salmon, Wales

What has happened to the inter-generational contract? Strange that many members of the cabinet benefited from student grants, but now think it is not suitable for today's students. Grants should be available to all and for any course - not just degrees and teacher training. payable for up to, say, seven years in a lifetime, - but not necessarily in one block. And it should be available at any age, even when retired.
Peter Judge, UK

Just because someone's family has more money than another's, it doesn't mean that they should pay more for something. If a person on £100,000 a year was told they had to pay £1 for a chocolate bar, that someone on £10,000 a year was paying 30p for, they wouldn't! So why should education be any different?
Gill, England

Gill's "knock 'em while they're down" attitude is not very civilised. We're not talking about a short-term, low cost consumable like a chocolate bar. Low incomes simply do not cover the high costs of studying. Even if you view education purely as a personal investment (and not one which benefits the whole country and its future generations, perish the thought) surely you can see that potential debts deter people from making that investment?
Richard, UK

The grants should be based on the students ability and not on their parents wealth.
Caron, England

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