SAVE STUDENT BURSARIES: QUEEN MARY
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Queen Mary students have been occupying the Octagon building at their Mile End campus since Monday 12th March in support of the national UCU strikes and in opposition to bursary cuts made by management.
From the academic year 2018/19 the Queen Mary University of London Bursary, a means-tested yearly allowance for students from low-income families, will be substantially reduced. This is unacceptable and hits the poorest students hardest.
From next year, students from households earning less than £15,000 a year will receive the slightly increased amount of £1,700; students from households with income between £15,001 – £30,000 will receive the substantially reduced sum (50% cut) of £750; and students from families earning more than this will receive nothing. Even accounting for the small increase for the lowest earning families (which we demand to see retained), this is a reduction in bursary spending of millions of pounds.
However, it is not possible to calculate the exact figure with publicly available information, which prevents the student body from being able to come to an informed judgement. Whatever new initiatives are explored for increasing recruitment to Queen Mary, they cannot come at the expense of the money students rely on once they are here.
Research that Queen Mary has undertaken into the impact of its bursaries, such as the Undergraduate Student Finance Survey 2016, demonstrates their undeniable importance. Bursaries reduce the need to undertake paid work alongside studying, avoiding all the stresses and pressures that that entails (as the report details). Bursaries go to students who have lower rates of ‘wellbeing’. It is also extremely important to emphasise that students receiving bursaries are disproportionately BME. Current bursary recipients are clearly the students who are most in need of support; the new intake of students in 2018/19 will face the same pressures and living costs but with less money available to them to help. It is also significant that this research was undertaken before cuts to government maintenance grants, which left other forms of non-repayable support, such as bursaries, even more crucial.
As Queen Mary’s own surveys indicate, bursaries make a huge difference for students. Policies which prioritise recruitment at the expense of student wellbeing make it very clear how the university views us: not as individuals participating in a learning community, but as a revenue stream. The decision to cut bursaries is a purely economic, and not a humane, calculation, in which we are reduced to a cold, quantifiable demographic tally.
We call on university management to:
· Demand financial transparency from the university over the proposed cuts to bursaries.
· Reverse the proposed bursary cuts whilst maintaining the increase to the under £15,000 bracket.
· Redefine the purpose of bursaries to a system that prioritised student wellbeing and the alleviation of financial pressure.
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