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Five ways that the Tories are making university way harder

If you’ve graduated or you’re still studying then count your blessings because things are going to become much more difficult under this government

We thought things were bad enough when Nick Clegg U-turned on his tuition fees pledges, the coalition introduced £9,000 a year fees, scrapped EMA and told everyone to just get on it with, but it seems that students are perpetually getting a rough deal at the moment. George Osborne’s latest budget and Theresa May’s relentless anti-international student rhetoric points towards the dawn of a new era in which going to university is going to be pretty tough. Here, we explain why.

SAY GOODBYE TO MAINTENANCE GRANTS

Privately educated George Osborne (who was christened "Gideon") decided last week that low-income families don’t need help paying for their kids to go to uni. Previously, families who would not have been able to pay for rent or food for their kids at uni were eligible for a grant for each child. They didn’t have to pay it back and the whole idea of the grant was to make university more accessible for everyone and ensure that those who come from lower income backgrounds were not saddled with debt when they graduated.

Now, they have to take out a loan to pay to live, instead of getting a grant as well as a loan for the fees. This could equate to nearly £60,000 of debt by the end of uni – which may seem like a huge amount to people whose schools cost £30,000 per year, but it’s a game changer to someone from a different background.

THE TORIES ARE TRYING TO RAISE TUITION FEES

Osborne also announced in the Budget that Universities with “high-quality teaching” will be allowed to raise tuition fees in line with inflation from 2017-18, which effectively means the lifting of the £9,000 cap. Fees have been climbing since they were introduced and this cap removal could see fees rising even more, making education less affordable. 

THERESA MAY IS SENDING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS HOME

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that she is going to force foreign students to leave the UK the minute they stop studying. Non-EU students won’t even be able to apply for a visa when their course finishes. We want their cash, but once they’ve paid for their education, they will be forced to leave the UK, no matter how talented they are. This will probably deter international students from coming here, bad news for institutions such as UCL – 69% of its students are international.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ARE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO WORK WHILE THEY STUDY EITHER

If you come from abroad and can’t afford to pay your way through uni with money from your parents, or some sort of loan, you might want to secure a part-time job to earn you some money while you study. Theresa May has taken this option away from students who don’t come from the UK, announcing today that she doesn’t want international students to be able to work in the country while they study. May claims that it is to "stop immigration cheats abusing publicly-funded colleges", but the rules seem unbelievably harsh, anti-modern and inward looking.

YOUNG PEOPLE WON’T BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE NEW LIVING WAGE

It's not much easier for UK students, who may face even more pressure to work and study at the same time, especially seeing as there are no more grants. The budget set those of us who are under 25 up to be exploited, introducing a higher Living Wage (which, without tax credits, is not really any different to the current minimum wage). The catch is that if you’re under 25, employers don’t have to pay you it. So, your minimum wage will be stuck at £6.50 an hour, while the living wage will be raised to £9 by 2020.

These new measures are about to make affording and going to uni much harder for most people, especially for those from lower income backgrounds and international students. Those of us who went to university post-2012 might feel hard-done-by because of the 9 grand fee hike, but it looks like we were lucky — we’ve missed the latest, and perhaps biggest, assault on students in the past few years.

Unsurprisingly, those who will fare best come from rich backgrounds, people who wouldn’t balk at paying tens of thousands of pounds for an education. This is most likely to be those whose parents paid that much for their school education; people like George Osborne.