Maintenance Grants

Oral Answers to Questions — Innovation, Universities and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 20th November 2008.

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Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire 10:30 am, 20th November 2008

What estimate he has made of the number of new students with a reduced entitlement to maintenance grants in 2009-10.

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Photo of John Denham John Denham Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

In July 2007, I set out my aim that two thirds of students should get a full or partial grant. I can tell the House today that I expect the revised system to provide full or partial grants to two thirds of students. In July 2007, I also predicted that a third of students would get the maximum grant. I can tell the House today that I expect that commitment to be exceeded: under the new package, 40 per cent. of students will be eligible for a full grant. I have made available an additional £100 million to meet that commitment.

All eligible new students from households with incomes from £18,000 to £50,000 will get more grant than they would have been entitled to in 2007-08, and those from households with incomes of up to £57,000 will get more total support, including subsidised loans.

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Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire

I am grateful for that reply, but will the Secretary of State confirm that, given that the cohort of 18-year-olds in the population is predicted to rise in the next two years, one of the consequences of his decision to cut student places next year is that the target of a higher education participation rate of 50 per cent. will not be reached and could go backwards?

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Photo of John Denham John Denham Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

There is no cut in the number of student places next year. Indeed, I have asked the Higher Education Funding Council to distribute an extra 10,000 student numbers compared with this year. The expansion in higher education means that I am now confident that even more students than I predicted in January will be in higher education next year. That is the truth of the Government's commitment to expanding higher education.

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Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Shadow Minister (Education)

The Secretary of State told the Select Committee last month that 40,000 students would lose their full grant as a result of the changes that he announced. How many additional students will lose some grant in 2009 compared with 2008, as a result of his announcement last month? We want to know, as do students and their families, the total number of students who will lose some or all of their grant as a result of his decision.

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Photo of John Denham John Denham Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

The detail of the new structure will be published when the regulations are laid before the House, and they will be debated in the normal way. The hon. Gentleman has been completely wrong about the matter. In May this year, he attacked our grant proposals because they would give too much money to middle-income families. He said:

"Ministers have given up on spreading opportunity to those from the poorest backgrounds."

More students will get the maximum grant and we are putting another £100 million into the system to ensure that that happens. The hon. Gentleman needs to admit that he has been completely wrong throughout.

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Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Shadow Minister (Education)

I am trying to ask a simple question of fact, and students who go to university next year and their families are entitled to an answer. How many student will receive less grant or no grant in 2009 compared with 2008 as a result of the Secretary of State's announcement last month? That is the simple question that he has failed to answer in the past month. My calculations suggest that 80,000 families could lose in that way. Will he confirm that the total number of losers is fewer than 80,000? Will he at least give that assurance?

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Photo of John Denham John Denham Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

No student will lose money. Those who are at university on the current grant system will have their grant honoured. Those who apply for grants next year will have clear details from the Student Loans Company, when the regulations are published, of what they are entitled to. Two thirds of students will get a full or partial grant. More students will get a full grant than I anticipated a year and a half ago. All students from households with incomes from £18,000 to £50,000 will get more money than they would have done in 2007-08.

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