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Universities UK response to NAO report into student loan delays

Issued on 19 March 2010

Universities UK has responded to the National Audit Office report looking into the processing of student finance applications in England last year. The report finds that the customer service provided to students in 2009 by the Student Loans Company (SLC) was poor and that there were major problems in the processing of applications and in communications with applicants.

Professor Steve Smith, President of Universities UK, said: “This report confirms many of the findings from Professor Sir Deian Hopkin's thorough and rigorous review conducted last year. It is yet more evidence that the service provided to applicants last year was wholly inadequate.

“The problems in the processing of applications and in communications with applicants led to a lot of concern and anxiety among students. Problems identified with the SLC's processing of Disabled Students’ Allowance are particularly lamentable.

“The recommendations in both reports must now be implemented in full. The problems experienced last year should never be allowed to happen again. The key issue now is ensuring that the procedures are in place for the 2010 admissions round. Our primary concern has to be for those students - and their families - applying for loans this summer.

“Given the strong steer in the Hopkin review for the SLC to improve their relationship with students and stakeholders, UUK supported the Minister's decision to establish a Stakeholder Forum. The Forum (including the NUS, UUK, GuildHE, AoC, UCAS and AMOSSHE) will be chaired by Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University, and will act as a watchdog to ensure that these areas of concern are addressed fully this year.

“The Minister for Higher Education David Lammy has also announced today that an independent check by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) will take place to ensure that the SLC is ready to process applications and answer customer enquiries during the peak months this summer. This is also a welcome move.”

ENDS

Notes

  1. The NAO report will be available from Friday 18 March at: www.nao.org.uk
  2. The Stakeholder Forum, chaired by Professor Andrew Wathey, will hold its first meeting next week.
  3. The NAO report follows the Hopkin Review (December 2009) commissioned by the Department and Company: www.bis.gov.uk/hopkin The NAO report endorses the recommendations of the Hopkin Review, and goes further by interrogating performance and financial data, surveying students and evaluating ongoing risks.
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