Groups push for fee aid

December 19, 1997

Social workers and lawyers have stepped up their campaigns for students on these courses to be assisted with tuition fees.

But education ministers have refused requests from the Department of Health to transfer control of the social work training budget and help social work students with tuition fees.

Health officials had wanted social work students to have the same perks as those in nursing and professions allied to medicine. The DOH will pay the tuition fees of these students, who will get access to DOH maintenance bursaries from next year, when cash to support their degree courses shifts from the Department for Education and Employment to the DOH.

The government agreed the transfer of cash because it feared nursing shortages if trainees were forced to pay fees. It said the state should help because most of the students would go on to work for the National Health Service.

Other cash transfers have been ruled out by ministers. A DFEE spokesman said: "We have been asked whether we would include social workers in this particular transaction. We have said we won't because the state does not employ social workers." He said discussions will continue and the decision could be reviewed later.

David Jones, assistant director of the Central Council for the Education and Training of Social Workers, said: "Mature students are being put off by the uncertainty about grants and loans. They are taking a career change and a significant financial risk."

Barristers, solicitors and trainee lawyers have campaigned to seek government support for students on postgraduate law courses.

Kim Howells, parliamentary under-secretary for higher education, has asked the Law Society and Bar Council to draft proposals for helping these students, who end their studies with debts of up to Pounds 10,000. Legal groups want those on postgraduate legal courses to have access to income-contingent loans for tuition and maintenance. Failing this, they want government support for a private bursary awards system.

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