Changes to student support arrangements

05 July 2007

The Russell Group of Universities has today (5 July, 2007) welcomed a government announcement by John Denham, Secretary of State in the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, outlining further measures to minimise the perceived barriers to higher education, particularly for students from low-income families.

Director General of the Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, said:

"Raising the participation levels of students from low-income backgrounds is an issue of vital importance to The Russell Group as key deliverers of the high-level skills needed for the UK to compete in a rapidly developing global economy.

"The Russell Group particularly welcomes the doubling of numbers on the Student Associate Scheme because this type of activity aims to tackle some of the root causes of under-representation in higher education by improving attainment and raising aspiration.
"Russell Group universities already play a vital role in raising the aspirations of students from under-represented backgrounds. Our universities do this through close collaboration with schools and colleges in deprived areas. Ongoing relationships with these schools and colleges enable thousands of staff and students to tutor and mentor local pupils. We greatly welcome further encouragement to build on this important work through the expansion of the Student Associate Scheme.

"The Russell Group further welcomes the measures announced today to improve the financial support available to students in need. Our institutions already commit more than seven times more funds to bursaries than they are obliged to contribute and will continue this significant commitment to offer more support to increasing numbers of students.
"It is helpful that students who receive Education Maintenance Allowances will be given a guarantee of the support they will receive at university. This will minimise uncertainty and fear, and will give those students reassurance and clear information they need about the support available when going to university.

"Finally, in a system which allows students to contribute only a small percentage of their income and only when they are earning more than £15,000, The Russell Group welcomes the idea of a more flexible 'breathing space' of up to five years for repayment to give them more control and flexibility in managing their finances."

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