Labour'spoor plan

June 7, 1996

I write in response to Bryan Davies's recent letter (THES, May 31) responding to your comments on Labour's proposals for the "reform" of student maintenance.

It is interesting that he objects to your statement that the proposals are "highly regressive" and then fails to address your complaint - Labour's proposals are regressive because they remove students' right to a grant. These proposals can only be seen as a disincentive for young people to embark upon a course of study.

The sums envisaged by Labour as being sufficient for maintenance are simply too low - students will still need to resort to bank overdrafts and part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. And there are other objections to Labour's scheme. If the loan is repayable through National Insurance, then it must be seen as a form of tax. In that case, then, is the loan compulsory? Will students whose parents are wealthy enough to put them through college without recourse to the loan spend much of their working lives paying less tax than those whose parents are not? What about students on four-year courses, will they end up in more debt simply because of the type of degree that they have chosen to pursue? What about people who drop out of university or who have to repeat a year for medical reasons, will they too be penalised by being left in greater debt?

These are key questions, the necessity for their being asked betraying just how poorly thought-out Labour's policy is. It is a big enough disappointment that Labour has sold out students in this way, but it is an even bigger one that the NUS has rolled over and played dead to its masters in the Labour party by welcoming this policy with open arms.

ROB WEBB DP welfare, Aberystwyth Guild of Students

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