Students who fail GCSE maths or English could be banned from getting student loans

The new plans aim to reduce the number of ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees

Pupils who fail their maths and English GCSEs could be banned from taking out student loans, under new government plans to be announced this week.

Ministers are aiming to weed out “low-quality courses” or “Mickey Mouse degrees” in a bid to reduce student numbers and see more young people take on apprenticeships.

The Department for Education (DfE) proposals, which will be put to consultation, will include new minimum entry requirements for university to ensure pupils “aren’t being pushed into higher education before they are ready”.

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They will also suggest that students who fail to gain a Grade 4 – equivalent to a C in the previous grading system – in GCSE maths and English should be barred from accessing student loans.

Roughly a third of students fail their maths and English GCSEs each year.

Alternatively, this ban could be aimed at those who fail to achieve EE at A-level, although there would be exceptions to this rule for certain groups, such as mature students.

Ministers are also proposing to impose controls on student numbers “so that poor quality, low-cost courses aren’t incentivised to grow uncontrollably”.

“Low quality” courses could be defined as those with a high number of students dropping out and a low proportion getting a graduate job or entering further study once they have completed their degrees.

However, experts have warned that setting minimum entry requirements too high would impact many school leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Alistair Jarvis CBE, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “The government should expand opportunity, not constrain it. Placing a cap on aspiration by reducing the number of places for people to study at university is bad for individuals, the economy and society.

“The government should ensure that anyone with the potential to succeed at university has opportunity to do so.”

The announcement comes as the government prepares to publish the final part of its response to the 2019 Augar review into higher education funding. It is the first review since 1963 to be ordered by the Government into higher and further education. The response is said to include a consultation on minimum entry requirements for students to be eligible for government-backed loans for tuition and maintenance.

Data from the UCAS university admissions service shows 320,000 sixth formers have applied for university places so far, compared with 306,000 in 2021. There have also been a record number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds apply to uni this year.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We need to ensure that we are creating opportunities that will not only open doors but will develop the talent our country needs to prosper now and in the future.

“Higher education is an investment and we need to ensure that graduates are being rewarded for the money, time and effort they put into their studies with an educational experience and jobs that match their skills and help contribute to the economy.”

Featured image before edits: Unsplash

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