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Axing college grants will hit most deprived hardest, warns new study

2 November 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

Colleges in some of the most deprived areas of England will be the hardest hit if the government scraps the educational maintenance allowance (EMA), warns analysis released ahead of a Commons debate today.

The findings from the UCU reveal that students in areas where people are more likely to have no qualifications are most dependent on the weekly financial support. In some areas of Birmingham, Leicester and the North West as many as four-fifths of students receive the EMA.
 
The union said the analysis made a mockery of government claims that cuts announced in the recent spending review were fair. The findings come as politicians prepare to discuss the impact of withdrawing the EMA at an adjournment debate organised by Labour MP John Robertson at 12.30 today.
 
Studies show that the EMA is a key factor in improving participation in further education. Research conducted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies revealed that the EMA increased the proportion of males staying on in full-time education by 7.4% and females by 5.9%.
 
The union also warned that the government's decision to axe the allowance will directly impact on colleges as their funding is dependent on how many students remain on courses.
 
UCU's report demonstrates how cutting the EMA will disproportionately affect areas of England with low levels of educational attainment. Four-fifths (80%) of students at Knowsley College near Liverpool, for example, receive the EMA in area where over one in five (21%) people have no qualifications at all (see table).
 
In all 46% of students studying at English colleges receive the EMA. The national average percentage of people of working age with no qualifications is 12%.
 
The union warned that the loss of the EMA will further hamper the country's chances of competing internationally in terms of education. The recent Education at a Glance report, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that the UK has one of the worst participation rates for 15-19 year-olds in education.
 
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The EMA is a vital lifeline for many students in this country and can be the difference between people being able to study at college or being priced out. Without the EMA some students will be unable buy books or pay for travel to and from college.
 
'For all George Osborne's boasts about fairness, withdrawing the EMA will hit some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society, as well as the colleges that are there to serve them. If people start dropping out of colleges, institutions that rely on their attendance in order to get funding will be in dire financial straits.
 
'We already have one of the worst participation rates for post-16 education in the world and scrapping the EMA can only make the situation worse."
 
The 20 colleges with the highest percentage of students receiving EMAs
 

Rank

College

% of 16-18- year-olds receiving EMA*

Local Authority (% of people with no qualifications)

1

Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College

80.0%

Birmingham (20.6%)

2

Knowsley Community College

80.0%

Knowsley (21.4%)

3

Bolton Sixth Form College

75.0%

Bolton (15.8%)

4

Gateway Sixth Form College

75.0%

Leicester (22.8%)

5

Newham Sixth Form College

75.0%

Newham (19.1%)

6

Longley Park Sixth Form College

72.0%

Sheffield (11.0%)

7

Hartlepool Sixth Form College

71.0%

Hartlepool (18.3%)

8

East Riding College

71.0%

East Riding (9.9%)

9

Hugh Baird College

71.0%

Liverpool (20.1%)

10

Burnley College

70.0%

Burnley (17.0%)

11

Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College

69.0%

Waltham Forest (21.5%)

12

Regent College

68.0%

Leicester (22.8%)

13

St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College 

68.0%

Wandsworth (7.7%)

14

City College Birmingham

68.0%

Birmingham (20.6%)

15

Christ the King Sixth Form College

67.0%

Lewisham (6.6%)

16

Hopwood Hall College

66.0%

Rochdale (15.9%)

17

Tower Hamlets College

66.0%

Tower Hamlets (15.2%)

18

South Worcestershire College

65.0%

Worcestershire (13.8%)

19

Brooke House Sixth Form College

65.0%

Hackney (14.2%)

20

St Charles Catholic College

64.0%

Kensington and Chelsea (7.5%)

Average

46.4% (England only)

12.0% (UK)


 
Notes
*EMA recipients as a proportion of 16-18 year olds on FE provision in the college 2008/09
 (LSC funded and non-LSC funded learners) – Learning and Skills Council/ Skills Funding Agency
**Datasets extracted from NOMIS website

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