Press release – issued 3 May 2016
Last-minute government concession means thousands more young people now have chance of university – but many still remain blocked from continuing their education, warn Just for Kids Law and Let us Learn.
The Department for Business Innovation & Skills has revised its eligibility criteria for higher education student support, following last year’s Supreme Court ruling that the existing policy was unlawful and should be changed (1).
After consultation, the government has introduced a new ‘long residency’ qualification for student loans, allowing over 18s who were born abroad but have lived in the UK half their life to apply. Applicants’ time in this country must include at least ‘three years’ lawful ordinary residence’, in order for them to be eligible for a loan. (2)
The change will be introduced in time for the 2016/2017 academic year.
In a welcome change of heart, proposals have been dropped which would have meant over 24s facing the tougher criteria of having lived in the UK for 20 years in order to qualify.
In announcing the rethink, the government said it had been ‘persuaded by the argument’ (p12) made by respondents that the proposed 20 year rule would ‘create a cliff edge for those aged 25 years and above’; and was ‘too high a barrier and directly discriminated against mature learners.’ (p11)
Joel Carter, Just for Kids Law, youth projects manager, said:
‘We would like to thank the universities minister Jo Johnson for listening to our concerns about the impact of the 20 year rule on older applicants. We also welcome the fact that these new criteria officially recognise it was unfair for our government to deny so many students who have lived in this country for most of their lives the right to apply for a student loan. It is good news for all of us that many more of these motivated and aspirational young people will now be able to realise their ambitions of going to university.’
Let us Learn project worker Dami Makinde said:
” I know of several Let us Learn campaigners who are older than 24, who will no longer have to clock up 20 years in this country before they can go to university. This is very welcome news. However, if our government is serious about encouraging integration and social mobility, it needs to do more to tackle the remaining barriers to education. The eligibility criteria for student finance are still too restrictive. Too many young people who have always thought of themselves as British and know no other home are facing delays or being blocked altogether from continuing their education.’
Notes for editors
(1) R (on the application of Tigere (Appellant) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Respondent);  UKSC 57.
(2) Department for Business Innovation & Skills, New eligibility category for higher education student support, Government response, April 2016 can be found here
(3) Just for Kids Law is an award-winning youth justice charity. Let us Learn is a youth-led campaign for equal access to education for all. It was founded by Just for Kids Law in 2014. www.justforkidslaw.org