Saturday, 1 October 2011

Councillor Gains Party Conference Backing For Student Fight

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Belinda Brooks-Gordon has won support from Liberal Democrat conference delegates for her fight to get a fairer deal from the government for part-time students.
She teamed up with former Cambridgeshire County Council Liberal Democrat leader, Baroness Sal Brinton to put a motion to the Birmingham conference to ensure part-time university students were not discriminated against under the new education loans scheme.
For the first time, part-time students are eligible for loans to pay for their education; but they have to start repaying those loans after three and a half years before they have completed their courses.
And the system for accepting repayments will not be in place until 2016 meaning that students who become eligible to pay in 2013 will have to wait three years and fear their loan may start accruing interest.
Cllr Brooks-Gordon and Baroness Brinton, who were both mature students at Cambridge’s Churchill College, are fighting to get changes to the Education Bill to address the issue.
“I am delighted that members and supporters gave their support to this fight,” said Councillor Brooks-Gordon, a Reader at Birbeck College, London.
“Under the government’s proposals, part-time students, many of whom are single parents or disabled, are being discriminated against. I want to make sure that all students are getting the best possible deal to allow them to accept places on higher education no matter what their circumstances. With the support from conference, we have taken a major step forward in getting this Bill changed.
“I took my degree as a single parent with two children and would not have had my career without my university education.”
Baroness Brinton said: “Part-time students make up almost half of all students. The Government’s higher education policy means that for the first time since fees were introduced, they won’t pay a penny up front.
“Without a doubt, this will encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford it, to come back to education.
“But we can still go further. Liberal Democrats supported calls to ensure both part-time and full-time students are eligible to begin repayments at the same time.
“This will ensure part-time students are treated fairly, create a level playing field and promote wider participation in our universities.”