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Universities minister defends switch from grants to loans

As Labour MPs call for parliamentary debate.

The government has followed parliamentary procedure to convert student grants to loans, Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, has told opposition MPs in response to calls for a vote in the Commons.

Speaking before the committee for third-delegated legislation, Johnson said that “changes to student support are made annually through secondary legislation” under the teaching and higher education act, so no parliamentary vote is required. Johnson said that the 10 per cent extra maintenance support that students will receive under the new system, alongside favourable repayment terms, will mitigate the risks to widening participation, and that the impact of the policy will be monitored through data from higher education agencies. The switch from grants to loans will only affect students from poor households who go on to earn an average of £30,000 annually over their lifetime, he said. Latest application figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service suggest that students have not been deterred by the proposed change, he added. “[The policy] helps balance the need to ensure affordability is not a barrier to higher education, while ensuring it is funded in a fair and sustainable way,” he said.

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