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Coalition help for poorer students ahead of Commons vote

The coalition government proposed to help pay the cost of tuition fees for some of the country’s poorest students ahead of the tuition fee vote last week.

The proposals have prompted speculation that the government are softening the impact of the tripling of tuition fee costs. Universities Minister David Willetts announced that up to 18,000 students could receive funding to help cover the cost of their degree for up to two years.

The money to fund the proposals will come from a £150 million fund, called the National Scholarship Programme, which has been allocated to help potential pupils eligible for free schools meals.

Universities who plan to charge over double the current amount of £3,375 in fees will need to show that they are taking measures to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds. If they fail to show this, they could face fines or a cut in funding.

The announcement came shortly before a vote was passed last week in the House of Commons, giving universities the green light to charge students up to £9,000 in fees from 2013.

Mo Saqib, Humanities Officer for the University of Manchester Students’ Union (UMSU) said: “It’s obviously great news that 18,000 students can now expect not to be saddled with such great debt. I only wish that the proposals were extended in some way to the hundreds of thousands of other university students.”

NUS president Aaron Porter also criticised the proposals: “David Willetts is on another planet if he thinks that by telling universities to ‘do all they can’ on access that they will actually do so, particularly the elite institutions which have such a woeful record on access for underrepresented students. “Universities have an appalling past record on meeting access agreements and Offa has always been a weak and toothless regulator.”

Concessions may have encouraged some Liberal Democrats and a very small fraction of Conservative MPs who had been uncomfortable with the prospect of supporting an increase in fees to vote in favour of the proposals.

Tags: tuition fees

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Nick Renaud-Komiya

Former Editor-in-Chief of The Mancunion (2011-2012). Graduated in July 2011 with a BA in History & Social Sciences.

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