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LESS is MORE

How the University of Bath cut the financial aid to their most disadvantaged students… In the name of caring about the finances of their most disadvantaged students

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LESS is MORE: How the University of Bath cut the financial aid to their most disadvantaged students… In the name of caring about the finances of their most disadvantaged students. 

Setting precedents and going against the grain are two things our University does quite well. The decision to set a Carbon Net Neutral Management Plan for example was historic, as no UK University previously had made such a move. Now, any self-respecting institution has a management plan or is presumably in the midst of slapping one together. 

My point is this organisation is known for making bold decisions and having other universities follow suit. In the name of accessible and fair education, however, I hope this trend does not ring true for one of the most recent precedents set by our university. In the hulking 83-page Access and Participation Plan released by the University, they announced that the Bath Bursary, which currently offers £3000 cash to the most economically disadvantaged students, will effectively become a shadow of its former self: now offering  £1000 in cash and £1000 in food and drink credit for second-year and above students. In our current socio-economic climate, one in which UK students are being hit so hard by the cost-of-living crisis that they are resorting to food banks at unprecedented levels, this call by the University not only goes against the grain, but it goes against any and all-rational logic that I hope would exist in the higher decision-making echelons of this institution.

In the name of objectivity and being a fair critic, I think it’s only fair first to give the University’s reasoning behind this decision. In this access plan, the University assures us that this decision to cut the Bath Bursary is purely for altruistic reasons. By making the Bursary LESS, they can award it to MORE students, by “increasing the household income threshold from £25,000 to £30,000”. 

This logic is sound, and indeed I can see the benefit. But it begs the question: was this really the only way they could cobble enough money together to open the Bursary to more students? Personally, I believe the University takes us to be a bunch of fools. They argue that stripping the Bath Bursary must be done to alleviate the economic suffering for more students, however, I find this line hard to swallow when every time I commute up to campus; I’m greeted by the money sink that is the Management Building. A glorified study space for non-management students that cost a tidy sum of £70 million to construct.

I think I’m being a bit too mean though, I don’t think the University higher-ups are fools, in fact I think they are devilishly smart. You see, these changes will not affect any current recipients of the Bath Bursary, rather it is just the unlucky prospective students who decide to join us after this Access Plan goes into motion. These students, as they are not yet here with us, can’t even voice their anger at these changes. Instead, the onus is on us to do this for them. As we are not impacted directly, I imagine many students would think, ‘What’s the point?’ and rightfully so. Fortunately, being a politics student, I don’t have the same work pressures as my STEM friends, but I can understand why people would not want to take the time to fight for a cause that A) will likely not amount to real change and B) won’t benefit them remotely even if it does. 

However, I believe this very much does involve us. Sure, the University is not implicating us in these changes, but what sort of precedent will be set if there is no real resistance to these changes being made? A change that during a recession actively gives LESS money to students who need it the most. Without having our voices heard, we risk the prospect of emboldening the University into the mindset that they can make these sweeping changes and expect little pushback. Emboldened by the lack of resistance, the University might decide to draw up plans for yet another fancy and expensive building and worry about funding the Bath Bursary later down the road.

One of the main reasons I have given up reading news is because it is pessimistic, cynical and above all else it does not really amount to anything. It decries how awful everything is and does not feel the need to offer solutions, and I am no hypocrite. Here are just a couple of things you can do personally to make your voice heard about these changes by the university:

  1. SU OFFICER ELECTIONS!

 The elections which will shape the makeup of next year’s Student Union are currently ongoing. Many of the candidates will be out campaigning – tell them about this issue! Ask what they will do if elected! By having people within the system who align with our grievances, we stand a higher chance of letting it be known that these changes are unacceptable! Information about candidates can be found HERE.  

  • GET ACTIVE!  

BULU has an ongoing campaign that intends to challenge these cuts. Check out their socials – they are constantly looking for people to join the causeMore details about how to get involved with BULU can be found HERE

  • SIGN THE PETITION!

A petition has been set up to allow people to voice their anger at the decisions being made by the University. If this petition gets enough backing, it can be used to demonstrate to the University just how dissatisfied the student population is with this most recent decision. You can sign the petition by clicking HERE

P.S. – if you are going to spend another $70 million on a building, please consider the Politics Department, she deserves a renovation.

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