Student funding: twin piques

October 16, 1998

The last month has seen our twin sons depart for universities, one in England and one in Scotland. At the same time the full implications of the government's changes to student funding have been finally translated into hard figures. The budgets do not make happy reading. For us, the cost of this year's changes in funding is Pounds 13,000 over the next four years. We have observed the gradual deterioration in grants over the past few years but this year's changes were breathtaking.

We estimate each will require about Pounds 5,000 a year, which includes a Pounds 450 contribution to fees. The government's contribution for each is a Pounds 810 grant. The availability of a student loan of Pounds 2,735 will still leave a shortfall of about Pounds 1,500 each. Next year there will be no grant.

While the government may derive satisfaction from this year's Universities and Colleges Admissions Service application figures, such satisfaction may well be shortlived. In our case, the decision to enter higher education was made at GCSE. Career choices determined university courses and those in turn determined the appropriate A levels and BTEC course. In other words, today's freshers were already committed to higher education. The late changes to the funding arrangements gave this year's parents little choice and they will not forget this readily.

Tomorrow's students will not thank the government for these changes. To some extent they will also be justified in their belief that their interests have not been well represented by higher education itself.

John Hoar Fareham, Hampshire.

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