Britain’s monopolising student loan provider, the Student Loans Company, caused much anguish and upset this September and October as some 150,000 students’ applications for finance were yet to be processed – with only a few days to go until the start of the new academic year, here at Nottingham.
Prompting one senior politician to comment on the backlog as a “huge, bureaucratic nightmare,” it was apparent that a lack of administrative capacity was the cause of the gridlock, with some record 623,389 students attending university this year. The surge was fuelled by the popular ‘clearing’ service provided by UCAS.
In a move to cut costs of a locally administered system, Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell enacted reforms earlier in the year to centralise local authority administration into a national subsidiary, ‘Student Finance England’. This caused a subsequent reduction in capacity which lead to the litany of problems for both first time and returning students.
The chief executive of the Student Loans Company has assured students that it will have little effect on those who placed claims before mid-August for ‘basic funding’. This will leave those who await means-tested allowances to bear the brunt of the debacle. The applications which take the longest to process are invariably those from students who are most reliant on financial support.
Boardroom minutes from as early as January reveal that such a calamity had been foreseen by the company. The Director of Customer Services Martin Herbert posited, in the January meeting, that “Customer services would be working to their full capacity just to provide a basic service for 09/10.”