According to new research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), young people from low-income or minority ethnic families are most likely to be unable to attend university if the government decides to go ahead with plans to restrict access to student loans in England.
In February, the government announced their plan to ban university applicants who fail English and Maths GCSEs from taking out student loans. Disturbingly, the IFS found that these proposed policies would have a detrimental effect on students from the poorest families, as well as many Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani students.
The study found that about 23 per cent of Black undergraduates and 13 per cent of undergraduates from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds at English universities would have failed to qualify for student loans if the government opted to use the GCSE benchmark, while just seven per cent of white British undergraduates would have been affected.
The IFS also revealed that almost one in four recent undergraduates who received free school meals at the age of 16 would not be able to take out a student loan, and would therefore be effectively barred from attending university.
“A blanket minimum eligibility requirement would disproportionately impact students who haven’t had the same opportunities and support to meet the attainment threshold, and would result in a widening of socio-economic gaps in access to university,” said Laura van der Erve, an IFS senior research economist and an author of the research.
“This government parrots the language of ‘levelling up’ but these proposals are classist, ableist and racist. They cruelly target those from marginalised communities, and seek to gatekeep education,” added Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students.
The researchers also found that while students who failed their English and Maths GCSEs generally achieve lower degree results than other students, nearly 80 per cent still graduate and about 40 per cent achieve a First or 2:1. The proposed legislation would also doubtless negatively impact the number of students studying creative subjects and tracks with the government’s continued disdain for the arts.