The government has introduced a series of changes today that directly impact future students. Here’s what our student insiders had to say about it.
Today, the Government has confirmed it is considering the introduction of minimum eligibility requirements for student loans, which could see those who fail GCSE English and Maths unable to secure a student loan. The announcement is part of a wider cluster of changes to the UK’s student loans program – and it’s one that will likely be on the minds of students across the country today.
What has the government announced?
The announcement – entitled “fairer higher education system for students and taxpayers” – sets the student loan interest rate at RPI+0%, and caps the tuition fees at £9,250. Both of these measures are said to be to “reduce the real cost to students”.
However, the repayment threshold has been lowered to £25,000 – meaning that graduates will start paying back their loans earlier in their careers. The pay-back period for loans has been extended to 40 years – meaning that students have to grapple with a longer period of time before loan debt is written off.
Simultaneously to these announcements, the government published two consultations. One consultation considers whether there should be minimum academic eligibility requirements for student loans. Courses deemed “poor-quality” and “low-cost’ may also have their numbers capped.
What do students think?
Student Beans research shows that loan repayments are already a huge concern for the UK’s students. 79% are already worried about paying back their loans, and 55% say that finances, in general, are their biggest concern.
While the government has pitched the changes as a way to make education “fairer” for students and taxpayers, many current students are “appalled” at the confirmed and proposed changes.
“I think it is absolutely disgusting that the government would even consider imposing such a thing, the education system is already hard enough”, said Cianne, a student at the University of Hertfordshire. “It makes me worry for the future, and what the education system will be like in 20-30 years when I will maybe have children myself looking to go to university.”
In particular, students were outraged at the prospect of minimum eligibility requirements. “I think this is appalling”, said Lauren, a student at Edinburgh Napier University. “I’m lucky, I’m one of the only girls out of my friend group that is at University who luckily passed both my maths and English. I don’t understand how failing two subjects that aren’t an entry requirement for your degree could have an effect on your chance of getting funding towards studying.”
Thomas, a student at Anglia Ruskin University, agreed. “The real world does not involve coursework and exams day-to-day, so we shouldn’t base one’s intelligence on their grades”.
Many members of the Student Beans Instagram community pointed out that GCSE performance is no indication of career prospects or performance later in life. “I failed maths at school, it’s now eight years later and I’m doing a law degree which I’m excelling at. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my student loan!”
Another Instagram user pointed out that eligibility requirements for loans “completely discriminate against people with developmental disabilities or neurodivergent skills that may have struggled in school but have many talents and skills to contribute to society”.
Student Beans partner The 93% Foundation also said they were “deeply concerned” about the reports of loan ineligibility based on GCSE performance. “We believe proposed changes would severely undermine social mobility and serve to widen the educational, cultural and economic chasm that already exists between the 7 per cent of students educated at private schools and the remaining 93 per cent, they said in a statement shared with Student Beans. “If the government is truly dedicated to levelling-up opportunities across the UK, the answer lies in rooting out the drivers of low attainment, rather than restricting access to the opportunities offered by higher and further education.”
Supporting students during this time
It’s important to recognise that this affects students of all stages in their education. Students who have yet to even complete their GCSEs may have the threat of loan ineligibility hanging over them – and anyone heading to university in 2023 will be subject to the new changes. In short – this is a massive concern for pre-university students.
If you are a student-facing brand or organisation, in the short-term, sensitivity is key in your communications. If you create educational content for young audiences, think about how you can provide practical advice in the long-term to support them financially and academically. Otherwise, it’s just a case of waiting for further developments.
Students are already struggling with the cost of living crisis – if you are an essential retailer or brand, or utilities provider, consider how you could offer discounts to make life more affordable for disadvantaged students.
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