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Young People’s Social Mobility: Student Finance Rules:

Volume 723: debated on Monday 28 November 2022

1. What assessment she has made of the potential effect of changes to student finance rules on young people’s social mobility. (902426)

We have always believed that anyone who wants to, and can benefit from it, should get access to a world-class higher education. Since we took over from Labour, 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are 82% more likely to enter full-time higher education—that is for 2021 compared with 2010. Our reforms will make student loans more sustainable and fairer for graduates and taxpayers, and will help to boost learning across a lifetime, not just in universities. A full equality impact assessment of the changes has been conducted and was published on 24 February.

In his autumn statement, the Chancellor spoke for nearly an hour but failed to mention students once. The Office for National Statistics reports that three in 10 students are skipping lectures to save money and a quarter have taken on new debt because of the dire economic situation. Why are the Government neglecting students who are buckling under the pressure of the cost of living crisis?

I assure the hon. Lady that the Chancellor did mention teaching and all our teaching staff, which of course includes university teaching staff. My Department continues to work with the Office for Students to ensure that universities support students in hardship by drawing on the £261 million student premium. Any student who is struggling should speak to their university about the support it offers. Many universities are doing a fantastic job to provide further support: the University of Leeds has increased its student financial assistance fund almost fivefold to £1.9 million; Queen Mary University of London has a bursary scheme for lower-income families; and Buckinghamshire New University has kept its accommodation rates for halls of residence at pre-pandemic levels, so a lot of support is on hand for students.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to her new role and wish her all success. I strongly support the reforms to make the student loan repayment system fairer for students so that graduates will no longer repay more than they have borrowed in real terms. That is good news. Does she agree that Conservative Governments have delivered on our commitment to address student loan interest rates?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his welcome. We did commit to address student interest rates and we have delivered on that, which I am sure all hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome.