Minister of State for Universities, Sam Gyimah, has said he could have been “thrown out of university” had his Oxford college not helped him convert his rent into a loan, which he subsequently paid back.
Gyimah told MPs on the Education Select Committee, who pressed him on support for disadvantaged students, that the financial support he received from Somerville College allowed him to stay at university.
He said: “I would have been thrown out of university because I couldn’t afford my rent.
“The only way I managed to survive and carry on was because the college converted my rent into a loan, which I paid when I left.
“Now, a personal anecdote is never the best foundation for policy – but I can describe my own experience as the first kind of maintenance loan which got me through university.”
Gyimah was responding to a question from Themla Walker, an MP on the committee, who said she would not have been able to graduate without support from a maintenance grant.
Maintenance grants for disadvantaged students will not be re-introduced this year. They will be replaced with loans that have interest rates set to rise to 6.3% from the autumn.
The decision has been criticised by both Labour and Conservative former education secretaries.
Committee chairman Robert Halfron, warned that there was still a “major social injustice” in access to university and argued for a need to focus on the collapse in part-time student numbers, which have fallen by 61% in the past decade.
Gyimah also said that despite the £860m per year spent on university outreach, there was no clear evidence that this investment had been successful.
He told the committee that he wants universities to be more transparent with students about how their tuition fees are being spent.