OUSU and suffering Oxford students have welcomed an “overdue” government inquiry announced this week into the Student Loans Company (SLC).
Universities minister, David Lammy MP, has ordered the inquiry to look into how the SLC has let down more than 88,000 students.
This announcement comes at a time when many Oxford students are still waiting to receive the full amount or even part of their loan.
Alistair Strathern, a 2nd year PPEist at St Anne’s is one of the many students yet to receive their loan and describes the situation as “hugely frustrating”.
“As far as I’m aware they’re still in the process of accessing my grant application, though the Oxford bursary scheme managed that within a week. Precisely where they are at with my application has been impossible to find out though because any attempt to contact the SLC has been more than useless.
“In terms of my application one of the reasons it was so late was misinformation they gave me about what income data I’d need. On top of that attempting to find out where my applications at or when I can expect its completion by has been impossible.”
Students are also angry that the SLC has lost important documents, forced them to continuously resubmit evidence and made them endure endless engaged tones on help-lines.
Ambrose Holmes-Mackie, another 2nd year from St Anne’s described the lack of contact from SLC. “Although I was late in applying I was not informed as to which information I was expected to supply. If I were one of those people who creates a termly budget and financial schedule I’m sure I would be tearing my hair out, as it is I am simply broke.”
Holmes-Mackie has received part of his loan, but points out, “it is not enough to pay off the 4 and a half grand battels I have been left with.”
Lammy has announced that Deian Hopkins, the retired vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, and Bernadette Kenny, of Revenue & Customs, will conduct the review. Lammy has promised a “frank assessment of what went wrong.”
One possible source of the problems is the increase in University applicants for the SLC to assess. 20,000 more people took up University places this year, with an increase in student finance applications by 50,000. This means that 30,000 people missed out on places, many of who may reapply this year. There has already been a 15% year-on-year increase in registrations on the UCAS website ahead of the Oxbridge deadline last week.
Jonny Medland, OUSU vice-president for Access and Academic Affairs commented on the situation, “It’s completely unacceptable that many students are still without their loans nearly a month after they started at university. The review needs to tell us how Student Finance England has proven to be so inadequate at fulfilling its most crucial role… Clearly this is work that should have been done before the finances of so many students were entrusted to a hopelessly underprepared organisation.”