University chief calls for the return of maintenance grants in response to diversity criticisms

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Tim Bradshaw, head of the Russell Group, has called for a return of maintenance grants, in order that the number of students from poorer backgrounds attending university can rise.

Maintenance grants were abolished for the poorest students in 2016, completing its change from a grant to a loan-based system, in the hope that this would cost less for tax-payers.

This criticism comes following figures released earlier this year, which show that the top 24 universities in the UK were not accepting enough students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The figures show that only 6.5% of last years intake to university came from the most disadvantage areas of the UK, and that only 3% were black students.

Mr Bradshaw told The Independent that these grants would “encourage even more [students from disadvantaged backgrounds] to consider applying to university in the first place”, adding that: “The student loan system is very complicated and difficult to understand.”

Oxford has specifically faced criticism for not doing enough to improve these figures, with threats earlier this year of sanctions being given if it does not improve its access figures.