News in: government plans could block pupils from taking out student loans if they fail their Maths and English GCSEs. These proposals come in the wake of a review of the funding of higher education funding in the U.K. The Department for Education (DfE) has provided many justifications for these proposals on the student loan ban. That hasn’t stopped them from facing public backlash.
The State funds college loans in the U.K.with repayments coming straight out of graduates’ paychecks after they earn above a certain amount. The State writes off these student loans 25-30 years after students are due to start repaying them. And, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, around four-fifths of students will likely never fully pay back their loans. But, is ending access to loans the solution?
Student loan ban ending university hopes?
Setting minimum entry requirements too high could effectively end the university hopes of many school leavers from poorer households. Better off families could pay for GCSE tuition to improve their child’s grades. Or, if they still failed to get the required grades, they could pay their children’s university fees without a loan.
The rule also means a block university for pupils gifted in maths but performing poorly in English or vice versa.
The proposals prompted an outcry on social media.
One Twitter user posted: “This is devastating and unnecessary. Why should you be kept out of a music, art, dance, or drama degree for getting a grade 3 in maths? Why should you be stopped from gaining a maths degree for getting a 3 in English? And why let rich kids avoid these rules?!”
Another Tweeted: “Pupils who fail English and maths ‘will be barred from student loans’. Ridiculous! I got GCSE 3 (fail!) for my maths, largely because no one noticed I was dyslexic. I went on to get a degree from a red brick university – and I have a successful career.”
A quick poll also yielded similar results: 73% disagreed with the new student loan ban.
The general consensus was that there are no options for students other than loans. A participant stated: “The current system does not easily allow for retakes. To put so much on the line for one chance to take your GCSE at the end of year 11 is not fair to students. That is too much pressure to put on a 16-year-old”. Participants also said the rule could be justified if apprenticeships and other options were given more publicity, focus and funding. But that isn’t the case.
What’s the government saying?
The U.K. government expects these rules to “ensure students aren’t being pushed into higher education before they are ready, so that poor-quality, low-cost courses aren’t incentivised to grow uncontrollably”.
A DfE spokesperson stated: “Our universities are a great British success story. They are powerhouses of innovation and play a key part in revolutionising the skills system. They help make lifelong learning possible with more flexibility and technical training. Hence, higher education is an investment. We need to ensure that graduates are being rewarded for the time and effort they put into their studies with an educational experience and jobs that match their skills…”
Essentially, the government is looking to increase the number of graduates with degrees that lead to “better outcomes for them, society, and economy—such as good employment prospects and better earnings”.
The government added that the plans won’t limit access to higher education. Instead, the plans will “aim to control the growth of courses that offer poor outcomes for students”. The aim is to make sure that a student’s access to higher education is determined by their ability and not their background.