THIS week in the House of Commons, the Government was challenged over its decision to remove university maintenance grants for the country’s poorest students.
Young people in Rochdale are among the half a million students from the poorest backgrounds who currently benefit from grants of up £3,387 a year.
These funds, which supplement the cash given out as student loans, pay for essentials like food, rent and study materials.
By scraping the grants in favour of even bigger loans, the Government is ensuring the poorest students will leave higher education in considerably more debt than their more wealthy counterparts.
Alternatively, many will be put off altogether.
I missed out on the opportunity to go to university at 18, but finally got the chance to study for a degree as a mature student. I know from first hand experience how a university education can expand horizons and open up opportunities.
Sadly for thousands of students from low income households, many of whom will be from families where no one has ever attended university, the removal of grants will be one barrier too many.
It is a national scandal that the worlds of politics, arts, media and academics are dominated by those from wealthy backgrounds, often privately educated, who view going to university as a birthright.
If we want a more equal society then fair access to university education or good quality apprenticeships is absolutely vital.
No one should be given a free ride at university, and I think it is right that students are required to make a contribution once they have graduated and secured well paying jobs.
But the Government has a responsibility to provide some up-front financial assistance to those who would otherwise be denied the chance to realise their full potential.
What makes the move even more objectionable is that the Government attempted to waive this cut through without a proper Parliamentary vote.
This brazen attempt to avoid a democratic debate is typical of this Government which is becoming increasingly arrogant as it continues to remove vital support from those who need it most.