Menu

Budget 2020: What did we want and what did we get?

 

Bursaries for nursing, midwifery and allied healthcare students.

  

Yes! The government have committed to introducing bursaries of at least £5,000 a year for all students from next academic year, with up to £3,000 further financial support available for eligible students with childcare responsibilities, as well as those studying in regions and specialisms where Trusts find it difficult to recruit nurses.

  

While this is a significant step there are more measures necessary to adequately support these students, who are vital to the workforce of the NHS, through their studies. Tuition fee exemptions need to be introduced for all of these students if we are to solve the recruitment crisis to our NHS. The government must also guarantee that these bursaries will not make students ineligible for any of the other benefits they currently receive.

 

More affordable and accessible transport for students

  

There were some improvements. The Budget allocated some funding for improving accessibility at a dozen train stations and gave £4.2 billion to the transport networks of eight city regions across England from 2022-23 to allow more power and funding for metro mayors in these regions to improve transport.

  

We would like to see the funding in these city regions now put towards improving the provision of transport for students so that they can travel to their institutions and providing discount schemes for students and apprentices. Plans to improve the accessibility of train stations should be enhanced to more than just a dozen stations and there should be support from the UK government to provide more financial support for students for travel.

 

More funding for further education

   

Partially, the government announced an extra £1.5 billion capital funding for further education colleges, which is very positive and they claim this will ensure that all college estates get up to a good standard. However this is not funding directly students or providing the maintenance support that we did call for.

   

The government should provide more funding for teaching to reverse the cuts that were inflicted on the sector since 2010. They need to raise the base rate of funding per student for all 16-18-year-olds to at least £4,760, as we along with many other organisations including the House of Commons Education Committee have called for.

 

Greater maintenance support for students

  

No. The government have said that they will be responding to the post-18 education and funding review at the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, so it was always quite unlikely that we would see major changes in this budget. However we are disappointed that the government have not taken action given that students urgently need more support.

  

As we have long called for maintenance grants need to be restored across higher and further education and at the very least, must match current maintenance loan rates and be adequate to cover the modern cost of living. The government should also increase the household income thresholds at which student support is paid in line with inflation, ending the freeze on this since 2008. They should also look to increase the current London weighting on student maintenance loans to ensure that it is sufficient to make living and studying in London affordable for all students and assess the need to expand it to nearby towns that have similar costs of living for students.

 

Improvements to student accommodation and the cost of living

  

Not really. The government did provide an additional £1 billion to remove combustible cladding from all high-rise buildings, which is a start to making buildings safe for students to live in. However the definition of a high-rise building, set at 18 metres, is completely arbitrary and doesn’t fully consider the safety of students. For instance The Cube in Bolton, which saw a horrendous fire destroying students’ property in November, falls outside of this definition.

  

The government needs to act urgently to fund the removal of combustible cladding from all residential buildings, including student accommodation, no matter what height they are. We would also like to see them commit to funding a full independent review into student accommodation and to increase the maximum maintenance support that is available to students while they study, to ensure that they can afford accommodation for the duration of their study.

 

Clarity around VAT collection in students’ unions

  

No, the government remains silent on this issue.

  

The government needs to re-examine their outdated, but recent, interpretation of VAT collection in students’ union bars and certainly not apply a retrospective collection on these bars.