Changes to higher education would see fewer pupils from working class backgrounds attend university.
Changes to higher education would see fewer pupils from working class backgrounds attend university.

Writing to the Vice-Chancellors of West Yorkshire’s universities, Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, has urged them to oppose proposals put forward by the Government that would see a dramatic fall in the number of students from deprived backgrounds studying at university.

Under the Government’s proposals, universities would be required to impose minimum stringent entry requirements that would bar students from a university education if they failed to achieve a Grade 4 in their English and Maths GCSEs. According to the Government’s own modelling of the proposals’ potential impact, the reforms would see fewer students from ethnic minority backgrounds, with Special Educational Needs (SEND), and who were eligible for free school meals from going on to university.

Extensive changes are also planned to student loan repayments that would see a sharp decrease in the earnings threshold when repayments begin, alongside a reduction in the maximum interest rate. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), this will have a devastating impact on graduates with low-medium earnings who will see a lifetime loss of around £30,000 as they will have to pay back a much larger share of their loans under the new system, whilst the highest-earning graduates will repay around £20,000 less as a result of the lower interest rate.

In his letter to the Vice-Chancellors of the Universities of Bradford, Leeds, Leeds-Beckett, Leeds-Trinity and Huddersfield, Imran has therefore urged them to respond to the Government’s consultation on these planned reforms and to oppose changes that constitute a clear attack on students from deprived and working-class backgrounds seeking a university education.

Speaking on the Government’s plans to make higher education less accessible for deprived and working-class students, Imran said:

“For many students from deprived and working-class backgrounds, going to university is about more than just furthering your education, it’s about achieving your true potential and breaking through the barriers that will have held many of them back throughout their entire lives, and this is why the Government’s plan to make a university education more restrictive is just so worrying.

“The Government’s planned changes would force universities to ignore students’ potential and the many challenges that students from deprived backgrounds face in their education compared to their peers from more affluent backgrounds, and would block the life chances of many young people before they’ve even reached adulthood.

“Reforms that would see lower to middle income earning graduates paying back £30,000 more whilst also seeing higher-earning graduates paying back £20,000 less are also deeply unfair and especially cruel at a time when many graduates are bearing the brunt of the Government’s cost of living crisis that has seen prices spiral.

“Representing a region as diverse as West Yorkshire where many students from poorer and marginalised backgrounds in Bradford go to study and set up their careers, our Vice-Chancellors need to make clear that they vehemently oppose and unequivocally reject the Government’s plans which would disproportionately impact Bradford’s aspiring university applicants.”

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