`Ancients' demand summer subsidy

November 11, 1994

Student leaders in the country's oldest universities are launching an "Ancients Campaign" to demand the restoration of benefits to students over the summer vacation.

Student unions at Aberdeen, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, St Andrews and the new-fangled University of London have issued a joint statement claiming that while student life at their institutions is publicly perceived as one of "privileged isolation", poverty is now an undeniable reality.

At a planning meeting in Edinburgh, representatives from Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Oxford decided to launch a parliamentary lobbying campaign while MPs are debating student loan regulations.

"The campaign is to lobby for the reintroduction of housing benefit and income support for students over the long vacation," said Stephen Magee, president of Edinburgh University's students association.

"The intention will be to highlight the increasing student hardship, difficulties with housing and the restriction of access to higher education that results from the exclusion of the vast majority of students from the benefits system."

Mr Magee stressed that the campaign was not intended to be elitist, but to provide a focus on student hardship other than the National Union of Students' nationwide grants campaign.

The seven unions say there is evidence suggesting that between 10 and 20 per cent of students even at the ancient universities have considered dropping out because of debt, indicating that the meritocratic basis of higher education has been seriously undermined.

"This is not only a grave social injustice but a senseless waste of human potential," said Mr Magee.

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