A response to the Autumn Statement

Our SU President explains how the Autumn Statement has affected students.

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Our Students' Union President, Claire Blakeway, explains how the Autumn Statement has affected students. 

This is my response to the autumn statement. This document has been presented to our local MP as well as the University over the past few weeks. In the light of the recent government decision to scrap maintenance grants, the response around this area has been updated and you can find this on our website.

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, released the first majority Conservative Government Autumn Statement – and Spending Review - on November 25th 2015. This budget delivered yet more financial pressures to students, creating an even tougher climate for students and their access to higher education.

Despite strong opposition in a recent consultation regarding changes to student loan repayments, the student loan repayment threshold will be frozen at £21,000, i.e, at the point you start earning £21,000 or above, you’ll have to pay back your student loan. This change is NOT in line with average earnings. Again, this punishes students who are already burdened with debt. This is a retrospective change to the terms and conditions of the student loan agreement. This really threatens the trust that students have in the government and their student finance system.

These changes will have a huge impact on all graduates but especially the most disadvantaged and those on lower earnings. NUS research shows that Women and BME graduates will be disproportionately affected by these changes as well.

Mr Osborne reaffirmed his commitment to replacing maintenance grants with loans. The removal of such grants creates even more barriers to students accessing higher education. Access to education should solely be based on an individual’s academic ability and willingness to learn, not on their financial backgrounds. This risks making education totally inaccessible to large groups of students and in many cases discourage students even considering a university education. It is totally unfair for these students to suffer and come out of university with even more debt!

The Governments proposed changes to scrap NHS bursaries in England is also incredibly concerning. If these changes are to go ahead it will directly impact upon the future workforce of the NHS with less people being attracted towards a career in healthcare as more students will feel the financial burden associated with the extra costs that these changes will bring. We believe the increased finances will cause an even further increase in the dropout rates of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health courses which is already high due to the financial pressures these students enter into their courses with. Katey Beggan, VP Heath Park, has created an open letter stating our concerns and opposition which will be sent to relevant government minsters.

At the moment these proposed changes will only apply to students who will study in England, however, as is becoming more frequent, if these changes are implemented in England, the Welsh government will more than likely follow suit .It is for these reasons that the Students’ Union strongly oppose the recommended changes to Higher Education for Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health funding, made by the Treasury.  

The Chancellor has also announced cuts to the Student Opportunity Fund. This means that students from disadvantaged and poorer backgrounds will have less chance of going to university and are more in danger of dropping out of University. Again, this makes education even less accessible for an already vulnerable group of students.

In better news, the government has announced it will extend loans to postgraduate taught courses and raise the proposed age cap for these to 60 years old. This makes Postgraduate education far more accessible.

The news that this recent budget brings is incredibly concerning and we alongside the National Union of Students are demanding action through the #CutTheCosts campaign. It is disappointing that the government are clearly ignoring the voices of students at this point in time. We will campaign through further and greater involvement in the #CutTheCosts campaign into the future. We will also be inviting our local MP, Jo Stevens, onto the campus so that students can voice their concerns directly to Jo. If you would like any further information or would like to get involved in the campaign please get in touch by emailing SUpresident@cardiff.ac.uk.

Claire Blakeway

Students’ Union President 

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