System failure

May 24, 2012

I recently spent the best part of a Sunday afternoon trying to help my daughter complete the student loan application for entry in September.

The Student Loans Company website prompts students to use their Universities and Colleges Admissions Service ID numbers to generate their personal details. It was all going fine until the site brought up my daughter's second-choice insurance offer, not her first choice.

There was no obvious way to change this online, so I phoned the SLC helpline. I was told that there had been many phone calls reporting such problems and that management had been informed. I was also told that the SLC's IT people were working to fix the bug. I asked why there was no warning on the initial web pages about the glitch. This was ignored.

I was told that the best option was to delete the application and try again. I was then advised that it might be better to download the form and send in a paper application.

I am appalled that the system is so useless. Why should thousands of potential students waste their time filling in online applications when the SLC site is known to have a major fault? Why not just tell them to download the forms and send them in the post?

I have emailed David Willetts, the universities and science minister, to ask him the same questions. I wonder if he will have anything reassuring to say, when the deadline is at the end of the month and students have a week or so to get their applications in.

The SLC mess is another example of how students are being forced to make complicated and life-changing decisions without a decent framework to support them.

Margaret Naude, Manchester

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