A teenager has spoken out about the inequality of higher education provision for Manx students in Westminster.

It is believed that Anna Ridgeway, aged 17, was the first islander to speak at the despatch box, used by key political figures to rest speech notes, in the House of Commons.

In her speech she said: ‘In 1997 the then Labour government set out its priorities to this house as education, education, education.

‘Since then, significant resources have been put into ensuring equality of access to higher education, through widening participation programmes and financial aid.

‘Sadly, 25 years later, there is still an inequality across the British Isles, with each jurisdiction choosing to do things differently.’

She added: ‘Widening participation programmes run by universities and third sector bodies such as the Sutton Trust, have been instrumental in ensuring that a place at university can now be seen as a right of the many, not just the privileged few.

‘However, students from the Isle of Man, which is outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom cannot benefit from such initiatives.’

She said that the Isle of Man Government is not part of a number of databases which categorise the UK’s population by level of socio-economic advantage and is often used by universities to set admission targets.

This ‘fails to give Manx students an equal footing when providing sufficient contextual data’, she added. Whilst university portal UCAS offers a small context box, it is not a replacement for raw data, she said.

Anna added: ‘Another key issue for Manx students is the financial burden of higher education, especially due to the additional travel costs.

‘These costs are not considered by UK universities, with some students having to pay for five separate trips to interview, with many institutions refusing to move to online interviews.

‘Furthermore Manx government offers tuition fee grants. We cannot access low interest student loans, meaning the cost of living and accommodation are difficult to afford.

‘Therefore I urge the British government to liaise with its crown dependencies, so that equality of widening participation and financial provision can be reached, especially during a time of a cost of living crisis.

‘If we seek to reduce inequality, we must prioritise education.’

Anna, a Ballakermeen High School student, delivered the speech to 250 young people at the UK Youth Parliament.

Whilst it was the 12th youth parliament that took place, it was the first time that crown dependencies were invited.

The event was chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, with statements from John Nicholson MP, Lillian Greenwood MP Shadow Minister for Arts, Heritage and Civil Society and Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt MP.

Participants were asked to speak about what impacts young people in their community. Higher education provision was an issue raised by Anna’s friends and teachers as a matter that impacts young islanders.

Anna was nominated to be the Isle of Man representative by her head of sixth form at Ballakermeen, who asked her if she wanted to participate in the UK Youth Parliament.

Speaking after the session, Anna said: ‘It was surreal because I study A level politics, and we have been doing parliament, so it was surreal to one day be learning about something, and the next day, be speaking there.’

‘I’m just really grateful for the invite from the Speaker and by the Youth Parliament to the Crown Dependencies’, Anna added. Her mum, Tracey Ridgeway said: ‘I’m immensely proud, it takes some nerve to stand up, and she is the first ever Manx resident to speak at the despatch box.’

Anna is looking to study politics, philosophy and economics at university, and while she said she doesn’t want to be a politician, she would like to work around politics.