Vice-Chancellor calls for return of maintenance grants at Labour Party conference

Professor Lynn Dobbs made her remarks during an event organised by MillionPlus and NUS at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Date: 24 September 2019

'Restoring maintenance grants and giving students more money for their living costs will address perhaps the most significant barrier to entry,' London Met Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lynn Dobbs, told a fringe event at the Labour Party conference today.

Professor Dobbs was speaking as part of a panel session organised by MillionPlus, the membership group for modern universities, and the National Union of Students (NUS). She was joined on the panel by Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Skills; Zamzam Ibrahim, President of the NUS; and James Morgan, Deputy Editor of the Times Higher Education who also chaired the session. 

Addressing the need to make part-time and mature students a priority, Professor Dobbs said:

"Despite the populist narrative of ‘too many students’, fewer than 50% of 30 years olds in the UK have had the opportunity to experience any form of higher education - this is a low bar that we should be seeking to leap over."

Professor Dobbs also stressed the need for better funding for further and higher education institutions and for more cooperation:

"Guaranteeing sustainable investment across tertiary education can foster collaboration rather than competition between universities and colleges”, she said.

"We need a well-funded tertiary education sector as a whole – further and higher education achieving their shared potential together … MillionPlus universities have 13 further education colleges in their university groups, and work with many more than that, so we are close to the issues that further education face. Shifting money around within education only moves problems from one part of the sector to the other, and from one set of students to other, does not address the critical issue of a real-terms reduction in investment in all of our students – none of us should ever settle for that.

"The old idea of what a university was is long gone … with pioneering modern institutions like the University of the Highlands and Islands, London South Bank University, University of Bolton, and – I’m proud to add – London Met too, – partnering with colleges and schools in our localities to benefit an even wider pool of students, helping create pathways to progression and social mobility.

“Making these institutions, and the whole of post-18 education, even more successful is the prize that is on offer to a Labour government – not least as modern universities are spread across the whole of the UK and can make direct positive impact on every part of the country.”