Reforming student maintenance: Assessing options for increasing higher education maintenance support in England

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Practice area: Education and Labour Markets
Client: The Sutton Trust
Published: 21 March, 2024
Keywords: economics of education higher education 2024 Public Policy

As part of a General Election policy briefing looking into the student maintenance system, London Economics were commissioned by the Sutton Trust to assess the implications of a range of different options for increasing maintenance support under the English higher education funding system.

While the tuition fee system has received much political and media attention in the last two decades, far less attention has been paid to student maintenance. But for many students, this funding is of more immediate importance and can have a major impact on whether they can afford to move away from home, how much paid work they need to undertake during their studies, and even whether they can afford to go to university at all.

The abolition of maintenance grants – which did not have to be paid back – in 2016 also means the student maintenance system puts the highest debt burden on students from the poorest families. Rather than a system that enables young people from all backgrounds to attend and thrive in higher education, it impacts on the university choices of some, and for others whether they attend university at all.

With the cost of living crisis exacerbating these challenges, the Sutton Trust’s policy briefing illustrates why student maintenance is an issue that needs to move up the political agenda ahead of the election.

The Sutton Trust’s policy briefing as well as our summary findings of the underlying full analysis of the different policy options are available here.