The announcement of an increase in student loan interest rates of up to 12% (April 13) is yet another attack by the government on opportunities for disadvantaged students to access higher education which can give them a social mobility and professional development. Education mandarins set admissions targets for universities to embrace “broad participation” – students from poor backgrounds and often poor schools should be offered university places with lower grades to compensate for their lack of privileges.
On the other side of education policy come the sustained attacks on student loans – already a major deterrent to poorer students. Of course, these changes will affect all students, but will disproportionately affect those from disadvantaged backgrounds who fear going into lifelong debt for immaterial investment in education.
I am part of the privileged elite who went to college in the 1970s, all expenses paid. Since my mother was a low-wage single mother, I also received a huge cost-of-living allowance. For the first time, I didn’t need a Saturday job. I could concentrate on my studies and write for the Newcastle University student newspaper: my entry into journalism and television. I was the first and only woman editor of ITV’s current affairs programme, World in Action; I then launched This Morning and created Loose Women. Would I have gone to university under this government? I doubt.