The National Union of Students (NUS) said that on Tuesday, May 3, students will gather outside the Department for Education (DfE) offices in Sheffield at 1pm, ahead of the close of a period of Government consultation on Friday, May 6.
In February, the DfE announced a consultation on changes to England's higher education system, including the possibility of introducing minimum university entry standards.
It is also considering switching to a system in which students would require a minimum of a grade 4 (equivalent to the old "C") in English and maths at GCSE, or two E grades at A-level to be eligible for loans.
Experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the proposals would disproportionately affect students from ethnic minorities and low-income families.
NUS UK President Larissa Kennedy said: “The Government’s changes to student loans are calculated cruelness. These changes will save the highest earners £20,000, whilst new graduates on lower and middle incomes tens of thousands of pounds will pay back thousands more over the course of their careers.
“At a time where the cost of living is soaring and real earnings are crashing, for the more vulnerable, these classist changes could be the difference between heating and eating. The Minister is saddling young people with unimaginable debt for the next forty years of their lives.
“Their plans to introduce minimum entry requirements are an attack on opportunity. This Government parrots the language of ‘levelling up’ but these proposals are classist, ableist and racist: they cruelly target those from marginalised communities, and seek to gatekeep education.”
The study by the IFS said that for the 2011 and 2012 GCSE cohorts, nearly one in four undergraduates who qualified for free school meals at the age of 16 would have been denied access to student loans if a GCSE English and maths threshold had been in place.
Also, demanding GCSE English and maths would have disproportionately impacted black, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani students compared to white British students.