In a petition to the University of Manchester, the Students’ Union has directly called for Higher Education to be made accessible to all.
The petition ‘Make Higher Education accessible to all, and reverse plans to cut bursaries!’ was launched at 12pm on the 23rd of March, and calls on students to add their voices to the campaign to stop the cuts.
“From 2017-18, The University of Manchester are planning to cut bursaries for their poorest students by £500 pounds per year. This cut of 20% for the students most in need will bring down the yearly amount from £2500 to £2000; a significant amount which equates to nearly two months’ rent.
“Currently negotiating their next Access Agreement with OFFA (Office for Fair Access), the University are responding to increasing government cuts in Higher Education by reducing the amount of financial support that it offers to undergraduate students who come from a household with an income of £25,000 or under.
“We recognise the strains that the government are placing on educational institutions, but the Students’ Union vehemently opposes the University’s plans.
“This decision unfairly punishes and burdens worse off students, and does nothing to ease the injustice of the attainment gap that currently afflicts students from poorer backgrounds.”
According to the petition, 23.9 per cent of the university’s students are from widening participation backgrounds, that is, young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, low-participation schools, families with no prior entrants into HE, those with a disability, and a number of other disadvantaged groups.
The SU asks that the university do “not just play lip service [sic]” to making Higher Education accessible, and that they do not reduce the financial support to underprivileged students.
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “When reviewing the University’s Access Agreement, any changes are done in the context of government funding and policy changes. Over the past few years the University has had to respond to significant cuts to government funding in this area, whilst maintaining its commitment to providing one of the most generous student financial support packages in the Russell Group.
:A third of new students receive financial support each year and we have the highest numbers of students from low participation neighbourhoods and lower-socio economic groups of any Russell Group University. Any decision about changes to bursary support for new students joining the University in 2017 will not be taken lightly and the University is in regular discussion with Students’ Union representatives to find the best possible solution.”