Saturday, 12 November 2011

Councillor’s Victory As Lords Back Campaign To Help Students

A Cambridgeshire County Councillor’s campaign to get a fairer deal for part-time university students under the government’s education loans scheme cleared another hurdle last night (Tuesday, November 1).

In the House of Lords, the government agreed with the Liberal Democrat amendment for the move, clearing the way for it to be written into the government’s Education Bill and become law. It was then also supported cross-party in the Lords.

Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon teamed up with former Cambridgeshire County Council Liberal Democrat leader, Baroness Sal Brinton, to make sure part-time students were not discriminated under the scheme.

From 2012 eligible part-time students will be able to borrow the full cost of their tuition fees for the first time. Students become eligible to start making repayments four years after they begin their studies instead of the three years originally planned by the government.

“I am absolutely delighted,” said Cllr Brooks-Gordon. “The Lords have supported this move which gives part-time students the same rights as enjoyed by their full-time counterparts.

“This will make such a huge difference to those people struggling to get a university education against a backdrop of financial hardship. These are the very people that we need to help and this change will make it possible.”

Cllr Brooks-Gordon and Baroness Brinton were both mature students at Cambridge’s Churchill College and fully admit what without support they would have struggled to achieve their qualifications.

“I was determined that part-time students, many of whom are single parents, mature students or disabled, should not be discriminated against in the loans system” said Dr Brooks-Gordon, a Reader at Birkbeck, University of London and past tutor at the Open University.

Part-time students make up 40 per cent of undergraduates and Cambridge is national hotspot for part-time students including Anglia Ruskin, the Open University, and Cambridge University."

Baroness Brinton said: "It was clear when I made the case repeatedly in the House of Lords that the Government’s original proposal was bizarre and illogical.

“The Lords and now the government have backed our proposals and cleared the way for these changes to become law. That will bring a great deal of relief to many part-time students and hopefully encourage others to embark on courses that might otherwise have been completely out of reach.”