Protests against the government’s plans to scrap maintenance grants caused Westminster Bridge to be blocked for more than an hour and a half on Tuesday. The protest was planned to coincide with the debate happening in the House of Commons.
The plan will mean that from the autumn, means-tested grants are to be switched to loans that will have to be repaid after graduation, drastically increasing the debt for students. Currently around 500,000 students receive the grants that can be as much as up to £3,387 per year and are paid to students from poorer families.
Labour have come out starkly against the plans with shadow education minister warning that it will be poorer students leaving university with more debt than their peers. He also pointed out that when fees were raised in 2012 the maintenance grant was seen as a way of somewhat compensating.
The government on the other hand stress that the grants are unaffordable and were outlined clearly in the summer budget speech. Despite this the plans have clearly been met with anger from the student body, with many seeing the vast sums of debt as a deterrent from taking higher education. Whether yesterday’s protest will have any effect remains to be seen.