Friday 17-07-2015 - 11:00
Today, we launch our #CutTheCosts campaign to fight the government’s draconian plans to scrap maintenance grants, which provide vital support to over half a million students.
During last week’s budget announcement, Chancellor George Osbourne unveiled the government’s intention to scrap maintenance grants for full-time Higher Education students in England and replace them with a loans-based system – a move which will end non-repayable state support offered to hundreds of thousands of students from lower income households every year and saddle poorer students with yet more debt should they aspire to study.
We know that for many students, every day is already a struggle to meet the day-to-day costs of studying. That’s why NUS is campaigning this year to #CutTheCosts that students face every day at their university, college, adult learning places and in the workplace.
We must now face the reality that if the government gets its way and maintenance grants are replaced with loans, the impact will be detrimental to hundreds of thousands of the poorest students studying in England for years to come., and may place pressure on the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow suit.
What are maintenance grants and what are the proposed changes?
- Maintenance grants are given to students from lower income households to help with their living costs.
- The maximum grant is £3,387 per year for students whose household income is less than £25k.
- NUS understands that currently, approximately 500,000 students rely on maintenance grants
- The government proposals would stop all grants to new students from September 2016, forcing poorer students to take on further debt to fund their studies.
How can students’ unions help to fight the cuts?
Below are three steps to kick off your campaign. We have produced a briefing which expands on these steps, which is available here. Further guidance on holding successful meetings with your MP and increasing the pressure on MPs will be available soon.
1.Contact your MP
Write to your MP and ask them to call for a debate in Parliament on the reforms so that they cannot be rushed through without opposition. You can use this template letter.
2.Build support locally
The more support you build locally, the more pressure you will be able to put on your MP. You can ask organisations and individuals to sign up to the campaign using this template supporting statement. Your institution’s Vice Chancellor is also a particularly important target so we encourage you to use this template letter to ask them to stand with your students’ union and oppose these cuts.
3.Gather personal stories and case studies
During the campaign against the cuts to Disabled Students Allowance in 2014, powerful personal stories influenced politicians to voice their opposition which lead to the planned cuts being put on hold. Ask your students for stories of how maintenance grants helped or are helping them through university and recruit those personally affected to your campaign team. If you have some great case studies, please share them with us. You can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Launching our #CutTheCosts campaign at Students’ Unions 2015 last week, NUS National President Megan Dunn said: ‘Students living on beans because they cannot afford healthy foods remains a punchline to a joke. It isn't a joke. It is a national scandal. That is why we must take local and national action to secure that U-turn on maintenance grants.
‘We must also tackle the causes of this crisis and cut the costs that are pricing the poorest out of education. That’s why we will need to harness opposition party support and demonstrate widespread opposition the government’s plans.’
We cannot allow George Osborne to write off the most vulnerable, let down the future talent of this country and price students out of higher education – which is why saving maintenance grants that support the poorest students is our utmost priority.
If you have any questions about the campaign, please email email@example.com.