Posted inOxford News

Pupils without GCSE English and maths to be denied university student loans

Pupils who fail maths and English GCSEs, or fail to achieve two E-grades at A-Level, would not qualify for a student loan under new government plans to be announced on Thursday.

This week, the Department for Education will publish proposals, including new minimum university entry requirements and the return of student number controls, in a shake-up of higher education funding. 

The proposals will include a suggestion that students who do not achieve a grade 4 in GCSE maths and English should be barred from taking out student loans. 

Ministers are also proposing to impose controls on student numbers, aiming to limit the cost of universities to the taxpayer and restrict entry to “poor quality” courses.

It is understood that “poor quality” courses will be defined as those with a low proportion of students getting graduate jobs or entering further education and a high number of students dropping out. 

Ministers, concerned at the proportion of university graduates who fail to earn enough to pay back their student loan, hope the move will encourage more young people to take on apprenticeships and other higher qualifications. 

The proposals, which will be put to consultation after publication, are part of a response to the Augar review of post-18 education and funding. The plans represent the biggest overhaul of higher education funding in a decade, and row back on policies introduced by New Labour and the coalition government which sought to encourage as many students as possible to go to university. 

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of universities umbrella group Universities UK, said: “Placing a cap on aspiration by reducing the number of places for people to study at university is bad for individuals, the economy and society. Government should ensure that anyone with the potential to succeed at university has opportunity to do so.”

Experts have warned that setting minimum university entry requirements too high would disproportionately impact school leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chair of the Sutton Trust education charity,said: “The introduction of any minimum grade requirement is always going to have the biggest impact on the poorest young people, as they are more likely to have lower grades because of the disadvantages they have faced in their schooling.”

The planned overhaul comes as the number of school leavers opting to pursue higher education continues to rise. Data from the UCAS university admissions service shows 320,000 sixth formers have applied to university so far, compared with 306,000 at the same stage in 2021. This includes a record number of applications made by UK students from disadvantaged backgrounds.