Colleges are having to top up government bursaries in order to help vulnerable students stay in education, warns a new study released today. The survey of 182 colleges, by the Association of Colleges (AoC), reveals that over half (52%) of colleges are …
Colleges are having to top up government bursaries in order to help vulnerable students stay in education, warns a new study released today.
The survey of 182 colleges, by the Association of Colleges (AoC), reveals that over half (52%) of colleges are topping up grants for students and 56% are spending more on subsidising students’ transport costs than last year. Half of colleges surveyed reported a drop in enrolments of 16-19-year olds.
The AoC said a significant number of colleges are concerned that financial constraints are preventing some students from pursuing their preferred courses at their institution of choice, and that there is a risk of vulnerable groups becoming disengaged from education.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, said: “The government’s failure to come up with a proper replacement for the EMA has left colleges scrabbling to find the funds to keep our poorest students in education.
“As youth unemployment soars towards record levels, the government needs to urgently reassess its priorities and make access to education easier for the poorest in society. The introduction of better transport subsidies and free meals for the poorest students would represent an important step in the right direction.”
Martin Freedman, head of pay, conditions and pensions at the ATL, said: “The survey confirms our fears that the government is making education for the over 16s too expensive for all but the richest students.
“The government is being schizophrenic. On one hand it is emphasising the importance of having a skilled workforce to our economy, while on the other it is denying the opportunity to acquire those skills to the thousands of young people for whom the cost of transport and food present real problems. These young people desperately need a fair and viable system of financial support.”
Jon Richards, UNISON National Secretary for Education and Children’s services said: “We have warned all along that taking away the EMA would force many students, especially from low income families, out of studying. These figures are not a surprise – many UNISON members work in enrolment offices and student support and have been telling us that numbers are down.
“Avenues are rapidly closing for our young people – yesterday’s job figures showed that record levels of young people are out of work. And many will not want to go on to further education because of the huge cost of going to university. To make matters worse, the government has savagely cut careers services by over a half, leaving many young people without help or advice or anywhere to turn.
“The government needs to act now and reverse cuts to education and youth services – they need to give young people back some hope and help them to stay in education.”
Key findings from the survey include:
- Over half of the colleges (52%) that responded to the survey are topping up government bursary funding with their own contributions
- A similar proportion (56%) are spending more on subsidising transport than last year
- Four-fifths (79%) of colleges said that free meals for poorer students would improve participation
- Half (50%) reported a drop in students aged 16-19 and a quarter (25%) reported a significant dip of between 5% and 15 %.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.