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 Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Students back grants review
Students outside Westminster University
Students enjoy a break at Westminster University
By BBC News Online's Cindi John

A warm October morning is encouraging students to linger outside the University of Westminster's building in Regent Street in central London.

Some have come out for a quick cigarette, others talk on mobile phones.

News that the government is considering a return to student grants and the scrapping of tuition fees provokes an animated response from several of those enjoying a break between lectures.

Law student Salim Ul-Haq said it was about time the government re-considered the situation.

Abdul Amam,Tamam Aokl, Salim Ul-Haq
Law students Abdul, Tamam and Salim will end their course in debt

"Students need all the help they can get and taking away the grants was a big mistake in the first place."

His friend Tamam Aokl agreed saying having to pay maintenance and tuition fees was a big strain on families with more than one child in higher education.

The 19-year-old reckoned she would be around 15,000 in debt by the end of her course.

"Me and my sister are both at university and my dad has to help support both of us. And doing a course like law you need a lot of books and I just can't afford it."

Fellow law student Abdul Amam agreed.

"My brother went to university a few years ago and he got a student grant. But know I'm going to be a several thousand in debt. I think that's unfair," he said


The government is said to be considering two options regarding the re-introduction of grants.

One would restore grants for all students, regardless of income, while the second would provide them only to poorer students following a means test.

Criminology student Marisa John thought the latter would be the better choice.

"I don't think you should just give the money away because there are certainly lots of families who can afford to send their children to university without any problem," she said.

Amit Sharma
Amit Sharma said having to pay interest on loans was unfair

Like many poorer students she had to work part time, Ms John added.

"When it comes up to the exams, employers find it so hard to give you the time off that you need.

"It's awful to be divided between earning that extra 50 to pay your rent or doing well at your exams."

If student grants were re-introduced it's likely that they would still have strings attached.

Once they reach a certain salary level former student might be asked to pay a "contribution" to the government for the cost of higher education.

But that did not stop Amit Sharma feeling it would still be an improvement on the present situation.

"Taking out loans and paying them back is really difficult.

"At the moment even if wanted to pay mine back straightaway I've still got to pay interest."

Law student Joya Belic thought any changes should be applied retrospectively. "It's quite unfair on us that they're thinking of re-introducing them, we would have just missed out.

It would be really good if we could get a refund," she said.

  Education Secretary Estelle Morris
"The money has got to come from the student, the family and the State"
starting university

How's it changed?

Who's that at the bar?



See also:

03 Oct 01 | Education
02 Oct 01 | Education
16 Jan 00 | Scotland
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