16th February 2000

 

 

FEES AND LOANS DISCOURAGE WIDER ACCESS - CLAIM

 

The introduction of student loans will undermine the government’s attempts to encourage those from less well-off backgrounds into higher education.

 

And there’s a danger that loans and fees will turn the clock back to a time when a university education was the preserve of the better off.

 

Those are the key findings of a new study published by experts at the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside. ‘Pity the Poor Students’ reveals that the educational and occupational aspirations of many pupils in a sample school serving a disadvantaged estate in Hull are diminished by their circumstances and experience.

 

“This study gives the lie to the claims made by the government that poorer students will not be barred from attending higher education because of the introduction of loans,” commented Prof Gary Craig, head of the Policy Studies Research Centre at the university.

 

“The recent changes in financing may reverse the trends of the past 20 years and return higher education to being the preserve only of children of the more educated and affluent families.”

 

The study looks at prospective higher education participants in Hull, one of the most educationally disadvantaged areas in the UK. Its author is John Knowles, a  research associate attached to the PSRC at the university’s Hull campus.

 

“Educational success [in disadvantaged areas] is not a currency which can be used to buy into a better future, and less well-off students are not prepared to make the investment of time, effort and energy required,” said Mr Knowles.

 

“The notion of investing in continuing education, deferring two to five years’ worth of potential earnings, and then compounding this by borrowing sums of money completely outside their family experience, makes higher education all but inaccessible.”

 

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The recent rapid expansion in the numbers participating in higher education and the reduction in government funding for universities has driven the requirement to spread the costs of HE to the students, said Mr Knowles.

 

“Paradoxically, this barrier of students having to fund themselves through higher education has dropped at the very moment when widening participation in HE to under-represented groups has reached the top of the political agenda and when universities are striving to recruit students from relatively disadvantaged groups.”

 

Mr Knowles concluded that where education is seen as beneficial, fees and loans may not prove to be a disincentive.

 

“But where the benefits of education are less clear, the attitudes of both pupils and parents may well be expressed as forcibly as they were by the father of a bright 15-year-old in an inner city comprehensive, who said: ‘No daughter of mine is getting into debt just for education!’”

 

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A copy of ‘Pity the Poor Students: Educational Success, Social Exclusion and Exclusiveness’ by John Knowles, Policy Studies Research Centre (Papers in Social Research No. 16) is enclosed for your information.

 

For more details contact:

 

Jez Ashberry

Press and Media Relations Manager

University of Lincolnshire & Humberside

Tel: 01522 886042

email: jashberry@lincoln.ac.uk