Poor? You could be in FE, says minister

August 2, 2002

Hard-up university students should stop moaning because college students are even poorer, higher education minister Margaret Hodge has said.

Ms Hodge picked another fight with students during a national radio broadcast in which she dismissed higher education students' worries about hardship and debt as whingeing.

Speaking on Radio Five Live's Nicky Campbell show, Ms Hodge told Leeds University Union officer Kathryn Edwards: "FE students do not moan yet they get no help and they have to work part time. Why is it so wrong that students work part time?"

Higher and further education students said Ms Hodge's comments beggared belief and made light of students' very real hardships. Ms Edwards, LUU's communications officer, said: "It is an insult to to all students. I do not think that anyone would describe student campaigns as moaning. It is very flippant to say so."

In the programme, Ms Hodge also reignited an old feud when she repeated her belief that many students expect the state to subsidise their social lives. "If young people want to go to the pub, should it be the state that subsidises them?" she asked.

Ms Edwards said that after paying average weekly rents of £48, Leeds students were left with about £20 a week for food, travel and other necessities.

Mandy Telford, president of the National Union of Students, said: "Margaret Hodge is right, further education students do have a very tough timeI However, for her to suggest that FE students do not complain shows an incredible lack of understanding. PoliticiansI should not dismiss those who voice their concerns as moaners."

'I think all students should get more support'

Daniel Lunn has just finished a Btec national diploma in public services at Dearne Valley College, Rotherham, and hopes to go on to do a degree in law.

Daniel, 17, was angered by Ms Hodge's comments about students as he believes he is as skint now as he will be when he goes to university. "It wasn't a fair thing to say. Further and higher education students are in the same boat. There should be decent support for college and university students."

Daniel works 20 hours a week at a McDonald's and lives at home. He plans to take a year or two out of education to get a bit of work experience and to make some money before going to university.

Andrew Makison thinks all students deserve more state support. Andrew, who has just finished an advanced vocational certificate in science at Huddersfield Technical College, has a conditional offer from Huddersfield University to study for a BSc in environment and human health.

Having worked part time throughout his course, he bemoans the pitiful support for further education students. "We got some help like discounts, but no help with living costs, travel costs or for costs for course materials. I think all students should get more support."

A company is lined up to support Andrew through his degree. Without such aid, things are hard. "One friend has just gone into the RAF because he couldn't get support to carry on his studies. The RAF will pay for his training."

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