The slowly wilting corpse of The Independent had a splash this week courtesy of everyone’s favourite rent renegades UCL Cut The Rent, and you might have seen a Cheese Grater shout out in there too. The article revealed that cuts to UCL bursaries will affect incoming students this September, but this isn’t the whole story. Bursaries for low income students have indeed been cut, but you can lower your pitchforks as incoming students will be no worse off than they would have been previously – at least in the short term.
This is because last year the government scrapped maintenance grants and replaced them with increased loans. Any 2015 vintage freshers with a household income of less than £12,000 in UCL halls would have received £9703 from the government, then a further £3000 bursary from UCL, bringing their total haul to £12,703. While that £3000 bursary has now been cut by UCL by a third for new students, the £1000 deficit will be made up by the government’s increased maintenance loan, so low income students will be no worse off – until they have to start paying it back that is.
Furthermore there are some students that will actually be better off this year. Freshers with a household income of between £25,000 and £37,000 are not affected by UCL’s bursary cuts, and will receive the same £1000 bursary as last year’s incoming students. When the government’s increased loan is added on, this will mean more money for frozen pizza and Sainsbury’s basics vodka to the tune of several hundred pounds.
It is of course true that with UCL’s bursary cuts, and the government’s grants becoming loans, students will leave university with more debt than ever before. It could be argued that UCL didn’t have to make cuts to its bursary scheme, and could thus allow students to take out a smaller loan. The loans will eventually have to be paid back, so the cuts in bursaries not only affect the worse off in the longer term, but may have the added effect of discouraging low income students of applying in the first place. As UCL are taking increasing numbers of wealthy international students paying extortionate fees though (see CG52), this probably isn’t giving College bigwigs too many sleepless nights.