Clarke 'confused' on grants

February 21, 2003

The government has been accused of failing to do its sums and causing "utter confusion" over the new student grant after education secretary Charles Clarke confirmed that its plans would need to be changed weeks after they were published in the white paper.

He added to the sense of chaos this week when he said that the new grant could be abolished altogether within two years of its birth next year, in favour of more generous fee waivers for poor students.

Mr Clarke said that "more up-to-date data" had forced him to review the family income threshold for the grant, which will be introduced next year.

He said that the £10,000 specified was too low to ensure that 30 per cent of students received the full £1,000, as promised, so the threshold would be raised.

The Department for Education and Skills would not specify what new data had emerged, what data the original £10,000 threshold was based on or what the new income threshold would be.

The upper threshold of £20,000 for students receiving a partial grant would remain, benefiting a further 13 per cent of students.

Jeff Ennis MP, a member of the education select committee, said: "We need to make all the relevant information available to potential students and the facts must be well known, especially to help widen access."

Paul Holmes MP, another committee member, said: "This is not just about the confusion and the negative effect on potential students, it is also the utter confusion at the heart of government policy."

Mr Clarke this week said that the grant may be scrapped altogether for the period after 2006, following further review of support heralded in the white paper.

Answering questions on a BBC website discussion as The THES went to press, he said the government was already considering exempting poorer students from the full £3,000 top-up fee, instead of offering a partial waiver alongside a grant.

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