Bursary was ‘whipped away’ from student

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On Thursday, the States of Jersey Complaints Board panel heard from the parents of a student who had applied for a grant to study at a college in the UK on a course starting later this year.

According to the mother, referred to as Mrs X to protect the identity of the child, after seeking advice from the Education Department in October she was offered a student grant and a bursary.

However, following the States approval of a new higher education finance proposal in April – aimed at providing eligible students with a higher maintenance grant for living expenses – the bursary ceased to exist. However, the previously agreed grant remained in place at the original level. As a result the family say they could no longer meet the full costs of sending the girl to college.

Yesterday, Geoffrey Crill, chairman of the States Complaints Board, said he was concerned that no consideration had been given to how people in Mrs X’s situation might be affected by the changes in policy.

‘What I find surprising is that in the report accompanying the proposal there was no mention of [the provision of] a bursary and no provision for transitional arrangements to cover people whose expectations [of a bursary scheme being in place] were changed,’ he said.

‘Is it normal that no consideration was given to how people might be affected?

‘Mrs X relied on it [the bursary] and in February that was whipped away, with no replacement or substitution being in place. This is an exceptional case and there should have been flashing red lights.’

And Assistant Education Minister Deputy Jeremy Maçon, who was also present at the hearing, added that he did not think the matter had been considered properly.

‘I think it was rushed. Not everything was ironed out by the last administration,’ he said.

John Moulin, one of the other States Complaints Board members, asked if the panel, in this exceptional case, would be able to use its discretion and grant further funding to the student.

‘Where we have a problem is that the department has new regulations. Surely we can find discretion in the department so that Miss X is given a bursary until the end of her education,’ he said.

‘Is there not a duty that we make sure we get them the education they deserve?’

The student is thought to be the only person affected in this way to have come forward to the States.

However, representatives from the Education Department said that they could only operate within existing regulations and they did not think that the current Education Minister had the power to grant additional funding.

The board has now retired to compile a report of its findings and recommendations, which will be forwarded to all relevant parties.

Normally that process take around six weeks but in order to avoid Miss X incurring any delay to her education the panel said it would report back in two weeks.

Gavin Fraser was the other member of the States Complaints Board Panel present.

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