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Power to make alternative payments

Part of Higher Education and Research Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 13th October 2016.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education) 3:45 pm, 13th October 2016

The general taxpayer or businesses. If the Opposition want to hammer business taxpayers, they can hammer business taxpayers too. Our funding system allocates a share of the cost of providing higher education to those who are going to benefit from it. It is not all of the cost, because as hon. Members well know, the Government make a deliberate and conscious investment in the skills base of this country by having an income-contingent student loan system that results in significant Government subsidy of student borrowing. The Government and the taxpayer are making a contribution but we feel that, to have a sustainable system, it is appropriate that the primary beneficiaries of higher education make a significant contribution to its cost. That is what our funding system does, and it has enabled us to lift student number controls, driving social mobility and access in a way that no previous funding system has ever managed.

New clause 8 would revoke the 2015 student support regulations. Those regulations replaced maintenance grants with loans for new full-time students starting their courses in the current 2016-17 academic year. The shadow Secretary of State made some comments about process and how we had avoided proper scrutiny of the change we made. I remind her that, in making that change, we correctly followed the parliamentary process as determined by the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1988, introduced by the last Labour Government. [Hon. Members: “No it wasn’t—1988?”] Sorry, did I say ’88? I beg your pardon; 1998, introduced by the last Labour Government.

I also note the Government’s success in expanding access to higher education. To maintain that success we need to ensure that higher education funding remains sustainable, which is why we have replaced the previous system of maintenance grants, saving £2.5 billion a year. We have replaced maintenance grants with increased maintenance loans for new full-time students starting their courses in 2016-17. The poorest students are receiving the most financial support through those subsidised loans, with an increase of up to 10.3% on the previous amount of support for eligible students.