Uni student numbers soar from one of Blackpool’s poorest areas – but MP warns over debt

MP Gordon Marsden
MP Gordon Marsden

The number of students heading to university from one of Blackpool’s poorest areas has almost doubled in the past decade.

The rise, according to Government figures, has taken place in Blackpool South, and is the third-largest increase in the UK.

The constituency’s MP, and shadow minister for universities and further education, Gordon Marsden has welcomed the figures – but says new Government changes will dissuade future students from going to university.

He said: “These figures are very positive and reflect the sense of get up and go and the renewal Blackpool enjoyed in the early 2000s.

“It was improvements in the funding of secondary education, strengthening people’s aspirations to go on to higher education in an area where figures before had been low.

“It’s a cause for celebration for the secondary schools as well as the individual students.”

In 2007, some 210 young people from South Shore headed to uni – the figure has now almost doubled.

However, Mr Marsden said the present government’s actions were likely to stop people from lower income families from going to university. He said: “The withdrawal of the maintenance grant for young people from lower income families, and the decision to freeze the repayment threshold for loans make it more expensive.”

Students have had an earnings threshold of £21,000 before having to pay back any of their loans – a threshold that was to rise with inflation.

But the change, announced in the Chancellor’s budget, means the £21,000 threshold will remain, meaning thousands of young people will have to pay back the money earlier than expected.

“It means more young people from the area will have to pay back their loans earlier and it is a disincentive for young people in future,” said Mr Marsden. “The move will damage the progress made and young people’s aspirations.”

The move has also been backdated to those taking a loan from 2012 onwards, a move which has been described as ‘mis-selling’ by financial expert and TV presenter Martin Lewis.

Last week, on his moneysavingexpert.com website, he announced he would make a legal challenge to the student loan changes.

He wrote: “I’ve engaged solicitors to investigate if there are grounds to judicial review this decision and to look at other legal grounds to challenge it (it may be people with student loans will need to agree to take cases – I doubt there’ll be a shortage of volunteers). This by necessity is being done at great speed as there is only a short period in which to judicial review.”

He said a commercial company could not have changed a contract retrospectively.