Mature students from across the country lobbied MPs at the House of Commons this week on the abolition of their special allowance in the budget.
A spokesperson for the National Union of Students, which organised the lobby with the Mature Students Union, said that many of the protesting students were "shocked" at the high level of ignorance on the issue shown by Conservative MPs when lobbied.
"Many did not seem to realise that there was a mature students' allowance and that it had been abolished," she said. The House of the Lords will debate the issue on Monday, and peers appear to be more familiar with and sympathetic to the issues.
Figures published in Hansard earlier this month showed that in 1992/93, 32,500 mature students qualified in England and Wales for the allowance, which cost Pounds 26.2 million.
In 1988/89, just 12,700 students qualified and it cost only Pounds 8.3 million.
Ian Moss, vice president for welfare at the NUS, said: "The allowance was a way of granting access to higher education for a large number of people who could not afford to study otherwise. The NUS will campaign hard against this move, which will simply restrict access for those seeking to improve their job skills."
He said that access for mature students, who now make up more than 50 per cent of the student population, is becoming a heated issue on many university campuses.
The decision to abolish the allowance contracted Government pledges on improving access to higher education for non-traditional students. The NUS is to write to all MPs on the issue.
Mr Moss added that students over 50 years old were not allowed to apply for a student loans, and would now lose their allowance as well.
The allowance is being abolished for students applying to study in 1995/96, and will not affect those already in the system. The Department for Education has estimated that abolition will affect 15,000 new students aged 26 or over.