Levelling up unequal access to university education

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Lack of Alternative Student Finance has directly disadvantaged almost 100,000 students

Interim results from our latest Muslim Census study shows almost 10,000 students per year are either forgoing university entirely or forced to self-pay because of the lack of provision and Alternative Student Finance (ASF). There have been ten cohorts since the introduction of the £9,000 annual tuition fee with 100,000 students impacted so far.

The current survey attracted 36,000 responses indicating not only a continued high and growing level of demand, but specifying for the first time how many students are affected.

Many Muslims do not take interest bearing loans for scriptural reasons hence are reluctant to avail of conventional student finance to fund their university education.

In 2013, David Cameron pledged to introduce a means for students to source money for university tuition fees and living expenses without paying interest on their loan. A government-led survey resulted in Cameron stating that “Never again should a Muslim in Britain feel unable to go to university because they cannot get a student loan simply because of their religion.”

With this alternative still yet to be introduced, Muslim Census has teamed up with Islamic Finance Guru, National Zakat Foundation, British Board of Scholars and Imams and leading student advocate Asha Hassan to produce a survey to quantify the impact of this delay.

Interim results from our online survey, currently over 36,000 respondents garnered in the first week alone, have confirmed the majority of Muslim students are adversely affected by the lack of provision of ASF. Worryingly, our survey highlighted more than 1 in 10 qualifying Muslim students miss out entirely on university directly because of the lack of ASF.

The interim survey results further confirmed almost 1 in 6 Muslim students are self financing directly due to the lack of ASF. This has resulted in severe restrictions with regards to which course and university they decide to attend, and the additional stress of having to work often full time hours to fund fees and living costs alongside studies.

According to a report published in 2017/18 by AdvanceHE, 8.9% of university students are Muslim, which equates to 36,655 Muslim students per annum. If the interim survey results were extrapolated across this cohort, more than 4,000 potential students per annum are forgoing a university education with close to 6,000 forced to self fund.

With the government due to announce reforms to university funding at the same time as the upcoming Autumn Statement on 27th October 2021, a valuable but short window of opportunity currently exists to rectify this issue which has persisted for almost 10 years in spite of repeated prior government promises. We strongly urge the government to seize this window by unequivocally committing to introduce ASF by September 2022, so as to ensure another cohort is not so deprived.

“With Muslim communities especially affected by economic deprivation, improving the life chances of 10,000 students annually through granting them equal access to funding a degree would help to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty, and demonstrate the government has a meaningful commitment to deliver on it’s aim of levelling up equality of opportunity.” stated Rizwan Yusoof, Director of Services of National Zakat Foundation, one of the organisations who facilitated the survey.

The survey further confirmed 4 in 5 Muslim students feel conflicted owing to taking conventional finance, with resulting mental health consequences which sometimes required clinical intervention. Further details of the survey results and sample breakdown can be found at the link below.

“To receive 36,000 responses within one week went well beyond our highest expectations and required us to urgently upgrade our server capacity to deal with the sheer volume of inbound traffic. This response vividly demonstrates the widespread very high real life cost resulting from lack of Alternative Student Finance. We estimate about 100,000 students have been disenfranchised to date since the introduction of higher £9,000 annual fees in September 2012. We therefore urge our government to bring in ASF by September 2022 so further cohorts are not so deprived.” stated Sadiq Dorasat, co-founder of Muslim Census.

We also found that 71% of our sample deemed the existing student financing options to be discriminatory against Muslims. It is clear through these interim results that the lack of alternative student finance is having an impact on the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Be that through directly avoiding university or self-funding, or taking the loan and having to compromise their faith leading to detrimental effects on their mental well-being. The fact that the survey has attracted over 36,000 responses, the largest survey sample of Muslims ever undertaken on this matter, further indicates the demand for a solution.

For further comment on this study, please contact us.

ACTION: To send you local MP a letter asking for action in delivering Alternative Student Finance, click here!

The full survey results are expected to be published in the coming months. However, in the meantime, you can see our full sample breakdown here.