Labour has pledged to reintroduce student maintenance grants and the educational maintenance allowance – both scrapped by Conservative-led governments – if it returns to power.
The party said that reintroducing grants for poorer students would be an “investment” and would be paid for by increasing corporation tax “by less than 1.5 per cent”.
Labour has previously said that the move to scrap maintenance grants and replace them with loans, introduced for new students starting this autumn, was not included in the Conservative election manifesto and should not have been passed via a Statutory Instrument, often used for low-key procedural matters.
The full grant for those who started courses in previous years, awarded to students from households with an annual income of under £25,000, is currently £3,387. It is then awarded on a declining scale to students from households with income of up to £42,620.
George Osborne, the former chancellor, announced the scrapping of grants in his 2015 summer Budget.
Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, said the move showed that “while the Tories continue to burden our young people with debt, the Labour Party is committed to investing in our young people. It is only by investing in education that we can ensure that all of our young people, whatever their background, are able to succeed in whatever they aspire to.”
The EMA, scrapped by the coalition government, was a payment to 16- to 18-year-olds from lower and middle-income backgrounds to support them staying in full-time education.
Ms Rayner said that restoring the EMA, “which the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies said improves both participation and attainment among 16- to 18-year-olds, would benefit three-quarters of a million students”.
And she added: “Reversing the government’s replacement of the student maintenance grant with loans would help over half a million students from low and middle income [families] to cover their living costs at university.
“When we can help improve the education of over a million young people with a small increase in corporation tax, it is an investment we would be foolish not to make.”
Labour’s announcement leaves unanswered the question of Labour’s policy on tuition fees. Jeremy Corbyn said during his successful leadership campaign last year that he wanted to scrap fees and reintroduce maintenance grants, a policy he said would cost £10 billion a year.
He told Times Higher Education last year that he wanted scrapping fees to become Labour policy, but recognised that it would take “serious debate and discussion within the party to achieve this”.