Plug loans 'haemorrhage'

January 27, 2011

More than £200 million in accumulated taxpayer fee subsidy to European Union students studying at UK universities is at risk of being written off if urgent steps are not taken to recover it.

A year ago, David Willetts, then shadow secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills, told the BBC that "the evidence we're getting already shows that the Student Loans Company (SLC) is being shockingly ineffective in collecting the money that's owed". The problem is getting worse, even before domestic fees treble.

Last year saw almost 120,000 EU students enrolled in British universities, half of them undergraduates. SLC statistics reveal that EU student fee debt has already reached £167 million (up from £42 million in 2008).

While it is admirable that so many young Europeans want to study in our universities, the UK Exchequer faces a near-impossible task in monitoring their subsequent earnings and recovering their loans. Can this funding haemorrhage be allowed to run unchecked?

Joe Docherty, International director, University of Portsmouth.

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