Theresa May calls for the return of student maintenance grants axed by George Osborne

Posted On: 
29th May 2019

Theresa May has called for the return of student grants after admitting that scrapping them had put those from low-income families off applying to university.

Theresa May
PA Images

The Prime Minister, who will stand down in the summer, said the move would spare students thousands of pounds worth of debt.

University maintenance grants for lower income students were axed in 2016 and replaced by loans under spending cuts introduced by former Chancellor George Osborne.

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Mrs May's intervention came response to the independent Augar review, which recommends that tuition fees for most courses should be cut from £9,250 a year to £7,500.

The review also said fees should be higher for "high value" courses such as medicine and engineering, with the funding gap being filled by the Treasury.

The Prime Minister said: "I was not surprised to see the panel argue for the reintroduction of means-tested maintenance grants both for university students and those studying for higher technical qualifications.

"Such a move would ensure students are supported whichever route they choose, and save those from the poorest backgrounds over £9,000.

“But my view is very clear: removing maintenance grants from the least well-off students has not worked, and I believe it is time to bring them back.”

On lowering tuition fees, she said: “There is much to be said for the panel’s proposal to cut fees and top up the money from Government, protecting the sector’s income overall but focussing more of that investment on high-quality and high-value courses.

“I know there are some, including the Labour Opposition, who will reject this finding because they want to abolish fees altogether.

“Such a move would be regressive and destructive - hurting our institutions and limiting the opportunities for our young people.”

The Prime Minister will also call for “significantly increased” support for the half of young people across England and Wales who do not go to university.

She will cite how in Germany, 20% of 25-year-olds hold a higher technical qualification – yet the figure in the UK is just 4%.

“By failing to equip more of our young people with the technical skills they will need to compete in the jobs of the future, we have hampered our national ability to compete on the world stage,” she said.