Dole it out to poor students

May 21, 2009

I always thought that the reason UK students pay lower fees than overseas ones is that educating British citizens helps the domestic economy, whereas foreign students take the benefits back home (Letters, 14 May).

If so, why do we undermine these future boons by not allowing British students to draw income support and housing benefit, thus forcing some of them to devote study or research hours to (usually low-paid) work? The benefits are means-tested, so wealthy students could not freeload.

Likewise, it should not impose too great an administrative burden on universities to certify to the Department for Work and Pensions, perhaps at the end of each academic year, that student claimants have passed that year's modules and will therefore study next year, or that research students have made progress with their studies and will continue.

There would be the normal course time limits for studying on the dole. This would deter freeloaders who simply want to avoid the DWP's coercion to find paid work while enabling less affluent students to study and avoid time-consuming bids for cash from other sources.

Hillary Shaw, Senior lecturer and food research consultant Harper Adams University College.

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