Following campaigning over the last academic year from Cardiff University Students’ Union and the National Union of Students, an opposition day debate was called to challenge the scrapping of maintenance grants by the government. We as a Students’ Union, welcomed the opportunity to challenge an unfair and undemocratic action by a committee against thousands of students across the UK who rely on Student Finance England. Firstly, we contacted all student members via e-mail, encouraging them to contact their MPs. Secondly, we campaigned on social media raising awareness on the debate engaging with over 80,000 individuals on various posts. Next, we worked with Students’ Unions across Wales to streamline an approach to ensure all MPs were personally spoken to by Students’ Unions detailing the significant impact of this legislation on students.
We were informed on the morning of the debate (19th January) that Welsh MPs were able to participate in the debate, however their vote would not be counted for the entirety of the decision, as education is a devolved power in Wales. As a Students’ Union, we were concerned that ruling out Welsh MPs from the vote, under the new English Votes for English Laws legislation, would have a detrimental effect on our students. Many undergraduate students at Cardiff University, many of whom rely on the Maintenance Grants provided by Student Finance England. These students are represented by Welsh MPs. We contacted the Speaker of the House of Commons, asserting that the decision to discount the votes of Welsh MPs should be withdrawn. In the end, we regret that these MPs were unable to contribute to the calculation of the final vote.
The debate was held from 13:30 today (19th January) with just a handful of MPs standing in the House of Commons to debate. Our local MP, Jo Stevens was at the debate, and was fully supportive of our campaign. In her speech, she even mentioned the experiences of our Vice President Welfare, Kate Delaney as a recipient of maintenance grants. When it came to a vote, the motion to annul the Education (Student Support) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, did not pass. The results of a vote by all-UK MPs was 292 votes for and 306 against the motion, and the results for an all-England vote was 203 votes for the motion and 291 against the motion. This means, from the 1st September 2016, maintenance grants will now no longer be available to current and prospective students from England.
What we think about this
We, as your Students’ Union, cannot express how disappointed we are by this decision. Not only will this affect the poorest students who aspire to come to university, but this will also leave many of our current students short-changed. We categorically disagree with this discriminatory treatment of current and possible future students.
Over the coming days, we will be working with the National Union of Students on what to do next. More importantly, we will be asking what we can do for you. If you have any concerns about what these changes mean whilst you are at University then please speak to your Elected Officers. We are your Students’ Union, and we are here to support you in every aspect of your university experience.
From your Elected Officers