A MOTION HAS passed in the first Oxford University Student Union meeting of Michaelmas term, to mandate both the President and Vice-President to publicly oppose the abolition of maintenance grants.
This motion comes in the light of plans announced by George Osborne in the emergency budget this summer to remove student maintenance grants and replace them with increased loans.
The motion also proposes to mandate the OUSU Vice-President to “lobby the University to mitigate the real and perceived financial implications for future students”.
OUSU Council noted that “the change would result in the poorest students graduating with bigger debts than the current system and with more debt than their peers”. OUSU has also stated that the Council believes that “maintenance grants are an important source of support, which encourage students from low-income backgrounds to apply to university and allow them to fully participate in student life once here and that replacing grants with loans is regressive and will increase the level of stress experienced by students from low-income families.”
The motion passed with 65 votes for, four votes against and seven abstentions.
OUSU President Becky Howe, who seconded the motion, told Cherwell, “Cutting maintenance grants would not only impact on students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds – it would mean that those taking the biggest maintenance loans would leave university with thousands of pounds’ more debt than their wealthier peers. It’s completely unfair and unacceptable.”
An Oxford University spokesperson commented, “Oxford University offers a very generous package of no-strings-attached financial support including grants and tuition fee reductions. We take into account the level of student debt when setting our annual financial support package.”
It is believed that approximately 16 per cent of Oxford students currently receive maintenance grants, and a survey conducted by OUSU this summer found that 88 per cent of respondents believed that the abolition of maintenance grants “would negatively affect students from low-income backgrounds”.
Christian Amos, a history student from St Catherine’s College, told Cherwell, “personally, I think it’s a good thing that Becky Howe is being mandated to do this. Tuition fees are a separate issue, but maintenance grants really have been an asset to many students from low income backgrounds. It is all very well saying that because you only pay back the maintenance grant when you’re earning that it’s not that big an issue, but now it puts undue financial burden on those most reliant on the maintenance loan – those who previously qualified for the grant.”
Flora Hudson, an undergraduate from Exeter College, told Cherwell, “I think it is very positive that OUSU have been mandated to speak out against cuts to maintenance grants – as representatives for the Oxford student body, it is important that they stand by the students who will be hardest hit by these cuts and so devastatingly impacted by the irresponsible decisions of our government.”