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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 03:40 GMT
Debt 'deters poorer students'
Student protest
Grants will not reach enough students, says research
Student debt is set to remain an obstacle to widening access to higher education, research suggests.

And the limited return of grants will not make any significant impact, as only 7% of families are likely to have earnings low enough to qualify for the full 1,000 a year maintenance grant.

This could mean that students, wanting to limit debt, will select courses according to their cost rather than on academic considerations.

UNIVERSITY COSTS
Tuition fees will be up to 3,000 per year
Grants will be up to 1,000 per year
Family income below 10,000 to qualify for full grant

The findings are from research commissioned by Universities UK, representing university vice-chancellors, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Despite the removal of up-front fees and the limited return of grants, the study suggests that debt will remain a concern, particularly for students from poorer families.

"This report provides clear evidence that debt aversion is deterring some students from entering higher education, particularly those from under-represented groups," says Diana Warwick, Universities UK's chief executive.

Funding plans

In the government's plan for university funding, presented last month, there are grants for the least well-off students.

The threshold for qualifying for the maximum grant is a household income of less than 10,000 per year.

And researchers have shown that among families with children in this age group, only 7% have earnings low enough to gain the 1,000 per year grant.

"The grant may not be large, or extensive enough to make a significant difference, particularly for those students who may benefit from educational maintenance allowances," says Professor Diana Green, chair of Universities UK's project into student debt.

Universities UK is holding a seminar in London on Wednesday to discuss attitudes toward debt among school leavers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"Sixth formers trying to decide if they can afford to go to university"
See also:

25 Jan 03 | Mike Baker
22 Jan 03 | HE overview
22 Jan 03 | HE case studies
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