Opinion: GCSE loan restrictions are not ‘one size fits all’

The Proposals

Under new proposals by The Department for Education, students who fail GCSEs in English and maths could be banned from taking student loans.

The controversial move comes as the Government aims to restrict the number of people attending university, and thus lower the cost on the taxpayer.

If approved the plans mean that students who achieve lower than a grade 4 in GCSE maths and English will not be allowed to receive a student loan.

A grade 4 in the current grading system is equivalent to a C in the old system, meaning that those who achieve equivalent to a D, a grade 3 today, will not be granted financial support if they were to go on to higher education.

In addition to the student loan system, university courses are set to undergo a shake-up, with ‘lower quality’ courses being scrapped.

‘Low quality’ courses have been categorised as those which have significant drop out or low employability ratings.

Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Notthingham East, was shocked by the proposals.

But have previous messages come back to bite the Government?

When you add the proposed restrictions to the current tuition fees of £9,250 per year, there is no denying that many prospective university students will be deterred, and instead turn to apprenticeships or full-time work.

As a student who attended high school during the 2010s, the decade in which David Cameron’s Conservative government tripled tuition fees to £9,000 per year, I can’t help but feel that previous expectations of students have finally come round full circle.

As a student in this generation, the impetus from my teachers was ‘go to university and get a job afterwards.’

This was the message at a time when the job market was becoming more saturated than ever.

Apprenticeships were largely discouraged and continuing in higher education was the norm.

Hands on experience was seen as inferior to sitting in a massive lecture theatre, for only 12 hours a week, listening to PowerPoint presentations.

Now, university is no doubt vital to certain careers, one couldn’t possibly learn solely on the job in a medical environment for example.

But the way that apprenticeships were discouraged, and courses such as ‘Harry Potter’ were encouraged is frankly laughable.

In addition to the student loan system, university courses are set to undergo a shake-up, with ‘lower quality’ courses being scrapped.

Are the proposals the right thing?

Fast forward ten years to 2022, and our current predicament.

Certainly, some university courses may need to be adapted or scrapped, but surely students shouldn’t be punished financially for their academic performance, especially when teaching standards vary so drastically across the country.

The proposed changes to both the loan system and the university system are still open to consultation, so there could yet be alterations that make the future fairer for the next generation.

Still, one can’t help but feel that the current situation is at least in part due to previous misplaced messaging.

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