LONDON (CU)_The government of the United Kingdom has proposed several reforms to the student loan system, which the Department of Education says would create “a fairer and more sustainable” system for students, institutions, as well as the taxpayer. However, a recent study has found that the planned reforms, which include the blocking of access to applicants who do not achieve at least a grade 4 or C in English and maths GCSEs, are expected to have a larger impact on selected groups of students, thereby widening socio-economic gaps in access to university.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a London-based economic research institute revealed that if the government goes ahead with its plans to restrict student loans, people from low-income families, as well as those from ethnic minority backgrounds, including many black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani students, would be hit the hardest. To be more specific, one in four recent undergraduates who received free school meals would no longer be able to get student loans if the proposed reforms are given the green light.
“A blanket minimum eligibility requirement would disproportionately impact students who haven’t had the same opportunities and support to meet the attainment threshold, and would result in a widening of socio-economic gaps in access to university,” Laura van der Erve, co- author of the research and an IFS senior research economist, said.
According to the study, if the government opted to use the GCSE benchmark, 23 per cent of black undergraduates and 13 per cent of undergraduates from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds at English universities would fail to qualify. This is contrast to just 7 per cent of white British undergraduates who would be affected by the minimum grades. The researchers also found that while these students who fail to meet the proposed minimum qualifications go on to achieve lower degree results than their peers, nearly 80 per cent of them still graduate while 40 per cent of them even manage to achieve a first class or upper second class degree.
“This government parrots the language of ‘levelling up’ but these proposals are classist, ableist and racist,” Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students, said. “They cruelly target those from marginalised communities, and seek to gatekeep education.”