Students ‘ecstatic’ as Manchester University defies government cuts and pledges to cover bursaries

By Sean Butters

‘Ecstatic’ students have shared a collective sigh of relief after it was announced that the University of Manchester would defy government cuts of £1.26milllion and cover student bursaries for 2014/15.

The announcement follows an online petition and on-campus demonstration by university students against government cuts to the National Scholarship Programme (NSP) which awards student bursaries.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University, outlined the amount of funding the university is set to lose as a result of the ruling, but promised that the university would be supporting those who have already applied.

“We will now lose £1.26 million in NSP funding as a result of this decision by government which we think is unprecedented as a change in year to students who are ‘already in the system’,” she said.

“The government’s decision has placed the university in a very difficult position as we simply don’t have such funds within a given year – any ‘new spend’ has to be at the cost of other budgets.

“Nevertheless, we decided to cover the cost of the loss of NSP funding because we want to honour what we have presented to student applicants. This applies to all new home undergraduate students entering the university in September 2014.”

Dame Nancy revealed that the decision was prompted by the proposed cuts, due in 2015, being moved forward by 12 months to the start of the next academic year.

“We had expected the funding to be cut for students entering university in September 2015, but have now been told that NSP funding will be cut for students entering in autumn 2014,” she said.

“At this point in the recruitment cycle a significant number of the students have already applied to us and will be aware of the financial support that we provide to students from disadvantaged backgrounds through NSP.”

The on-campus protest against the cuts was led by student campaign group Defend Our Education Manchester, who expressed their delight at the decision with a statement on their Facebook page.

“Ecstatic to announce that they [the university] will be covering all bursaries for 2014/15,” it said.

“Thanks to everyone who signed the petition.”

Manchester University currently offers first year bursaries of £3,000 to students from households with an income of up to £25,000 per annum, and £2,000 for those between £25,000 and £42,611.

Joe Boyd, 21, has applied to do medicinal chemistry at Manchester University and falls under the income bracket that qualifies for bursary support.

“I think it’s brilliant that they have decided to fund the students,” said Joe, who is currently at college full-time.

“It’s difficult to concentrate on your studies when you have money worries hanging over you.

“It will also take a lot of pressure off people might have been under when it comes to paying back loans when they finish university.”

Cahal Moran, a 22-year-old economics student at the university, benefits from the FSP but believes that more people should be entitled to financial support in the face of growing tuition fees.

“I get a bursary and it really helps me out,” he said.

“But with fees going up the universities should look to increase the threshold for people to qualify.”

With bursaries covered for 2014/15 the university has ironed out one issue, but all is not yet well, as shown by MM’s report on a student march on Oxford Road yesterday.

The march, also organised by Defend Our Education Manchester, was one of many around the UK, with students protesting against universities employing police to disband on-campus demonstrations.

Speakers at the event announced that conversations regarding future action will take place in February.

Image courtesy of Gene Hunt, with thanks

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles