One of the major announcements in yesterday’s summer Budget concerned the scrapping of educational maintenance grants – a move that will create further barriers to low-income students wishing to pursue medical careers according to the British Medical Association (BMA).
Chancellor George Osborne announced that existing maintenance grants will be phased out and replaced with a loans system of up to £8,200 per year from the 2016/17 academic year.
However, alongside the decision to remove maintenance grants, Mr Osborne did promise to increase the level of funding in the new loans.
“We firmly believe that medicine should be attracting the most able, not the most able to pay”, said BMA medical students committee (MSC) co-chair Charlie Bell. “Taking away a vital lifeline from students from disadvantaged backgrounds can only help to put some of our best applicants off careers in medicine. We call on the Government to reinstate these grants and to commit itself to widening participation across the professions.”
Adding his voice to the debate, MSC deputy chair for finance Tom Rock pointed out that UCAS figures for the year 2014/15 showed a drop in the number of applicants applying to medicine and that only 7 percent of medical students come from the three lowest socio-economic groups.
Mr Rock said: “MPs are very keen to pretend that none of this is due to cost. That is simply wrong. Current BMA members are struggling, and prospective applicants under the new £9,000 fee structure can expect to graduate with more than £60,000 of debt.
“Quite simply students are being put off by high fees. The Government has decided there is money to raise the inheritance tax threshold but not to help the poorest students study their way out of poverty.”