Labour muddle

November 7, 2003

I was delighted to read that higher education minister Alan Johnson now supports the Liberal Democrat policy of a £2,000 maintenance grant, though disappointed to read a few paragraphs later that the Department for Education and Skills views his stance as not living in the "real world", ("Minister favours doubling grants in line with Scotland", THES , October 24).

Sadly, Mr Johnson's support for a maintenance grant is undermined by the revelation that the government expects low-income students to use their grant to pay for tuition costs.

Ministers believe that they can exempt about a third of students from paying fees by lumping together existing fees concessions and the grant, with the difference made up by the universities out of their fees income.

In practice, even the poorest students will not receive any maintenance grant and the universities will be more than £110 million out of pocket.

If the government believes that this is how it will "buy off" potential rebels, let alone the Liberal Democrats, it has another thing coming.

David Rendel MP
Liberal Democrat spokesperson on higher education

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