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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 13:52 GMT
Students' slender finances
student Emma OWen working in shop
Shop work instead of study for Emma Owen
Students marching in London in protest at their financial hardship say young people are better off on state benefits.

The government says this "scaremongering" claim is likely to put people off going to university when it is trying to encourage more to do so.

Emma Owen, in her final year studying history at the University of East Anglia, works in a shop to make ends meet.

"There is nothing you can do to better yourself apart from take on part-time work, or full-time work during the holidays," she said as she set off to join the protest.

James Brownsall:
James Brownsall: Debts of 11,000
"And you have to make that decision - am I going to earn some money or am I going to study extra hard and try and get a higher mark in my essay? - and making that decision, it makes me very angry."

James Brownsall, a third year student at the University of Wales, Bangor, said he had debts of about 11,000.

"If you think about it the 'income' that a student can get is a maximum 3,000 loan.

"From that, approximately 1,800 goes on hall of residence rent, if you then have to pay 1,000 tuition fees as I do, it doesn't leave you with a great deal to live on to buy your course books, your food, your bills and all the rest of it," he said.

Need to know

"If you then consider that that 3,000 income isn't actually an income but debt accumulation, it's a terrible situation to be in."


Students need to know these things before they come to university - they need to appreciate that they are going to be in a difficult financial position

James Brownsall
He rejected government claims that the demonstration amounted to scaremongering.

"Students need to know these things before they come to university - they need to appreciate that they are going to be in a difficult financial position," he said.

"The government needs to realise that that could put people off, once they wake up and realise the truth."

Ministers had admitted making a mistake and should now use their review of student funding to do something positive, he added.

Forced out

Emma Harris from Croydon, Surrey, is in her second year studying French and Spanish at Cambridge University.

She owes 6,000 and said one of her friends had left the university because she was in too much debt.

"It has put people off coming," she said.

"There needs to be a better balance in education. Not having any funding is damaging."

Simon Waind from Stockport, Greater Manchester, is in his last year studying hospitality and food management at Birmingham University. He owes 14,000.

"It is outrageous," he said.

"The government is getting rid of the class system only to replace it with an elitist education system. Abolishing grants has created over-bearing financial pressures."

No support

Mature student Alison Branch, from Birmingham, called government policies "a sham".

"I am a 'mature' non-traditional student with three small children - the kind of student the government wants to 'include' and 'support'," she said in an e-mail.

"Prior to starting my degree I did my research and was advised of all the allowances and grants I was entitled to.

"On submitting my financial assessment forms to my LEA, I was told that I was entitled to nothing - no help with books, transport costs, childcare or tuition fees."

The reason was that her partner - a teacher - was earning "the huge sum" of 18,000 per year.

"If I were a single parent or lived in a different postcoded area I would have money thrown at me.

"But because I am an ordinary person, with a partner, trying to improve my job prospects I am marginalised.

"All government policy implies that higher education is a luxury. In the modern, knowledge-based society, higher education will be a necessity in order for this country to pull itself out of the economic quagmire it is approaching."

See also:

20 Feb 02 | UK Education
19 Feb 02 | UK Education
12 Feb 02 | Wales
31 Jan 02 | UK Education
31 Jan 02 | Health
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