Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Next year's student loans delayed

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education

Students in lecture
The loan delays are already having a knock-on effect on next year

The start of the applications process for next year's student loans for England is being delayed - following this year's widespread problems.

The launch of the loans and grants service for students starting in September 2010 should have been at the beginning of this week.

But the Student Loans Company says that this has now been postponed.

A review of loan delays for students who began courses this autumn found "conspicuous failures".

The delays in payments facing tens of thousands of students, which have dragged on for months after the start of term, have now caused a knock-on effect for next year.


The intended starting date of December 7 has been withdrawn - with no new date so far set to replace it.

The agency which administers student support for the government, the Student Loans Company, says it was postponed pending the review into delivery problems carried out by Professor Sir Deian Hopkin.

The review found problems with the processing system and a failure to provide information to students.

It found that during the peak of delays only 5% of calls to a helpline were being answered.

Universities have been forced to bail out students with emergency funding - with particular problems for mature students with children of their own.

Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers' union said: "Considering three-quarters of universities have had to find money for broke students and 19 out of 20 calls from students desperately chasing money they were promised went unanswered, I am glad that the current system is being reviewed.

"We need to ensure this fiasco is sorted out once and for all."

Liberal Democrat universities spokesman Stephen Williams said the SLC was "a complete shambles".

It had failed to do its job and ministers had failed to intervene.

"This postponement is further evidence that the time has come for heads to roll," he said.

The SLC has announced that it will undertake a "restructuring" of senior management. No date has yet been set for this to happen.

The problems with the processing system are also being investigated by the National Audit Office, which expects to report in the spring.

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The Independent Small businesses: Good work cancelled out by NI hikes - 10 hrs ago Application date for 2010 student loans postponed after payment chaos - 16 hrs ago
Telegraph Student loans hit by more delays - 16 hrs ago

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