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EDITIONS
 Monday, 10 September, 2001, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Dearing backs return of grants
lecture hall
Student debt has grown considerably
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.

The Dearing Committee's report in 1997 concluded that further expansion of higher education could not be afforded under the existing funding arrangements.

It recommended that students should pay "around 25%" of the average cost of tuition.

Grants scrapped

It said the government should set up a Student Support Agency which, among other things, would be responsible for means testing and paying grants for students' living costs.

lord dearing
Lord Dearing: Concern
The Labour government was tougher than anyone had expected - ending grants, then worth up to 2,100 a year, and replacing them entirely with loans.

Although "tuition fees" have become something of a rallying cry for opposition to the government's policies, only students with family incomes of more than 29,784 pay the full fees, currently 1,075 a year.

In practice the bigger problem for students in the loss of the grants. It means they can expect to graduate with debts of at least 10,000, twice what it was under the old system.

Lord Dearing told The Guardian newspaper on Monday that his committee had rejected the abolition of maintenance grants because "the only people who would have lost out would be the students from the poorer homes".

'Flexible'

He said he believed that reintroducing maintenance grants for the less well-off would give the government "a sensitive instrument", with a rate that could be amended in light of experience.

"Would it not be a good move to think again about maintenance grants as a flexible instrument you vary?" he said.

There is growing evidence that it is the fear of such a large debt that is deterring poorer students - the very people the government had wanted to encourage into higher education - from going to university in the first place.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was given a rough ride on the subject during the election campaign.

When he visited the University of Glamorgan at Pontypridd, angry students accused him of driving them into spiralling debt.

Andrew Chaplin told the prime minister that many of his fellow students were scraping a living.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
 Student debt
Should grants be reintroduced? Your views
See also:

24 May 01 | Wales
21 Jun 01 | Education
03 Jun 01 | Education
11 May 01 | Education
31 Jan 01 | Education
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