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Colleges, staff and students call for pause over college loans

6 April 2012

The Association of Colleges (AoC), National Union of Students (NUS), University and College Union (UCU) and UNISON today jointly called for a pause in the implementation of further education loans.

The four organisations - representing colleges, students, lecturers and support staff - will write to MPs in the next week stating the sector is simply not ready for the changes. They will argue that a pause is necessary until there has been a full impact assessment of the new system and proper consultation with the sector.
The new system, which is scheduled to be introduced from 2013/14, would force people aged 24 and over, who wish to study for qualifications at A-Level equivalent or above, to pay the full cost of their tuition by taking out a loan like students do in higher education.
Concerns have also been raised over whether the Student Loans Company (SLC) has been given sufficient time to develop the administration of the loans system. In recent years the SLC has been heavily criticised for failing to deliver university students' loans on time.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'At a time of record unemployment the last thing the Government should be doing is putting up even more financial barriers to education.
'The simple truth is that the sector is not ready for these changes and the last thing the Government needs is another botched policy effort after its NHS bill. Ministers must listen to the concerns of staff, students and colleges before increasing course fees.'

Martin Doel, chief executive of the AoC, said: 'We understand that the impact assessment for FE loans will not be published until May, which will be the same time as regulations are brought before Parliament.  
'We do not feel this gives stakeholders, nor indeed Parliament, sufficient time to consider the details of the regulations and also take into account the impact assessment. Therefore, we feel there is a need for a pause between publication of the impact assessment and the issue of regulations.'

Toni Pearce, NUS Vice-President (Further Education), said: 'The government must halt progress on the introduction of this new fees system for college students. We've all seen the consequences for students when things go wrong with the loans system and the government must not risk that happening again.

'NUS believes that charging students who might have been let down by the system first time round for taking the chance to improve their chances is entirely misguided, and deeply unfair - but it would be even worse to make a decision before we have had a proper chance to review the likely consequences.'
Jon Richards, UNISON national secretary for education and children's services, said: 'The Government must listen to the warnings being sent by students, staff unions and college leaders. Ministers risk pricing many adult learners out of colleges altogether, just when they need to update their skills to help them find work.
'We want an immediate halt to the implementation of the Government's damaging fees policy or they risk presiding over complete chaos and a fees system that is simply not fit for purpose.'
Last updated: 11 December 2015