Government plans to scrap student loans for students with lower grades

It was recently announced that students who do not obtain a passing grade in Maths or English GCSE may be blocked from taking out student loans under new Government plans aimed at tightening controls on higher education in the UK. This news has sparked outrage across the whole of the UK, especially within communities for those who have a learning difficulty and/or learning disability, as well as those in other minority groups.


Students who do not get 2 Es at A level (or an equivalent) or at least a Grade 4 pass in English and maths at GCSE would be barred from loans if the proposals get the go ahead.


About a third of pupils currently fail to get a Grade 4 - the equivalent to a C or pass under the previous system - in English and Maths.


The number of poorer pupils pursuing higher education has also increased, with 28% of 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas applying this autumn compared with just under 18% in 2013.

Sad Woman Students

The student loans system will also be dramatically changed, with the salary threshold at which graduates have to start paying back their debt lowered to £25,000.


The government proposals, being published ahead of a consultation, also include capping the total number of undergraduates which comes after the Ucas admissions service revealed 320,000 sixth-formers have applied for places at university so far this year, up from 306,000 in 2021.

two young people learning at table

The Department for Education claims it is aiming to prevent school-leavers from being ‘pushed into higher education before they are ready’.


Despite what the Department for Education has claimed is the reason for this to implemented it seems pretty clear to our readers that this would target poorer household incomes the most, but also that it directly discriminates against students who have a Learning Difficult and/or Learning Disability, as well as those in other minority groups.


We asked you, the readers:


"We would love to know your thoughts on this, how will/would this have affected your studies? Does this discriminate against those with learning difficulties and learning disabilities, as well as other minority groups?"


Laura Jane Round shared via twitter:

Young woman student

“This absolutely discriminates against people with learning difficulties - we're already told to focus on our failures rather than our successes. One of the highest achieving English students in the entire school, nominated for local awards etc?? Doesn't matter because dyscalculia”


John Scovel responded to our post via our Facebook page with:

“I can't do maths at all so I would not be able to get a loan now. Also, with modern technology you don't necessarily need to. It is just adding another unnecessary barrier.”


Students from low income families will be among some of the hardest hit students, as without the Student Loans, higher education will not be an option for them. Hamza Ayub Shared that they felt this new change would be:

“Absolutely disgusting, pupils with lower grades tend to have low socioeconomic backgrounds. I know so many people who have

gained degrees despite failing either their maths or English or even both. Some schools are shambles, they barely have full time teachers for these core subjects.” Hamza also shared their academic outcomes with, “And guess what, I failed my English three times before I passed and here I am studying a Bsc in Paramedic Science.”


Jason Roddam shared their positive experiences of their GCSE’s through the support of additional assistance, while also acknowledging that their experiences do not match everyone's and how that could have affected them.

Young Man Student

“I am not in the same boat as those who struggled academically because of my dyspraxia, and I fully get that. I passed my GCSEs very well, in fact. But I am also well aware that this was with additional assistance, such as being allowed a laptop in exams because my handwriting was illegible. Without that help, I don't know if I would've passed. However, the idea that you can only get student loans if you pass in specific subjects is just wrong. We all have different ways of learning, this is not rewarding achievements, it is punishing diversity. I have seen it said several times, if we judge a fish by its ability to swim, it would be amazing, but if we judged it by its ability to climb a tree, it would fail every time. The same is true of people. Not just with disabilities.”

“If we judge everyone’s success on their ability at maths and english, then many will be excluded by definition. Someone with dyslexia will always struggle. Someone who is not mathematically minded would struggle. Imagine defunding the arts because of bad maths scores. Imagine looking at a gifted scientist and saying "well, your english grades weren't any good, so we are going to pull your funding".

“You could have a prodigy at chemistry, or art, or social work, or any number of other fields, and we cannot deny them the right to student loans because they struggle to analyse a sonnet. And I say all this as someone who initially struggled with maths, and who needed help with English because of my difficulty with writing. My hands cramped up doing essays, and my writing was barely legible, when it could be read at all. I now have a BSc in clinical psychology, and am studying to be a nurse.”


Edel Crowley highlighted how disabled student’s are often at a disadvantage due to lack of support provided by educational institutes.


young woman student
“I 100% agree with the statement that students from poorer backgrounds don't always get the same quality of teaching. It's the same for students with learning disabilities. If your teacher doesn't even understand how the student learns, how can they teach in a way that enables the student to understand the material? On top of that, if you have a disability like Dyspraxia where your ability to properly organise your thoughts on paper is severely lacking and
your teachers don't spot that is the issue and not their intelligence or ability to grasp the topic, and therefore don't help the student to work around that, then you have a student who despite having a full grasp of the subject, is consistently struggling to display that understanding and gets a low or even failing grade which severely negatively impacts their chances of getting into third-level education.”

It is clear that this news has caused a lot of upset and uncertainty for students who are at risk of not meeting the new criteria's for obtaining a student loan in the future. There are many concerns that this infringes on direct or indirect discrimination laws against students from multiple disadvantage categories such as (but not limited to): Disabilities, learning difficulties/disabilities, lower income households, etc. 


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