Turn-up for the books 2

December 12, 2003

I was dismayed to see higher education minister Alan Johnson quoted as saying he sees nothing wrong with law students subsidising those studying chemistry and physics ("Grants may be key to success", THES , December 5). If these subjects are important, which they are, surely we should all be subsidising them - not putting the onus on the current generation of law or any other full-premium fee-paying students?

Two things trouble me about the student support debate. First, the government's definition of poor. Despite declaring that students should be considered independent at 18, it intends to use their parents' income to assess eligibility for the award of maintenance grants and bursaries. That means students from moderately well-off families will be significantly disadvantaged by the income levels of their parents, irrespective of their personal circumstances as independent adults.

Second, talk about bursaries focuses on using premium fee income from students whose parents are well off to pay for the bursaries of those whose parents are not. The burden of providing the additional funding needed by universities will fall on the two-thirds of students whose parents happen to be well off enough to disqualify them from receiving maintenance grants or bursaries.

Graham Hooley
Senior pro vice-chancellor
Aston University

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