Government axes controversial student loan scheme after it fails to attract applicants

17 December 2013 | last updated: 10 December 2015

The government has scrapped a loan scheme for older apprentices after it failed to attract anywhere near the number of people the government hoped.

Vince Cable announced this morning that the controversial system of making people aged 24 and above take out a loan to fund a high-level* apprenticeship would be axed after it attracted just 404 applicants, despite government predictions of 25,000.

UCU, who opposed the measure from the outset, said the government now had to provide proper support for people who wanted to return to study and cancel the loans of people who had applied.

The union went on to say that, although the government should be commended for axing such an unpopular policy, failures across a range of post-16 education policies indicated it is time for major policy rethinks.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Forcing older people to take out huge loans to retrain was always going to be a barrier and the only saving grace is that even the government seems to have, belatedly, recognised this. Apprentices need proper support and the loans for the handful of people who did apply must be cancelled.

'Omnishambles might have been 2012's word of the year, but it is quite apt to sum up the government's post-16 education policies. Student loans, student numbers and funding for students are all in a mess. The government should take a leaf out of Vince Cable's book and go back to the drawing board now to ensure the public does not have to pick up the tab for any more failed experiments.'

In recent weeks it has been revealed that the government has a financial black hole thanks to massively miscalculating the cost to the public of university loans. Meanwhile experts believe planned changes to university student number controls are not fully funded and funding for 18 year-olds who want to study at college will be slashed by 17% in 2014 - despite the compulsory education age rising to 18.

* Level 3 and above - equivalent to A-levels.

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