Financial aid 'illogical and unfair'

April 17, 2008

Students have branded the university finance system unfair, illogical and bureaucratic.

In a series of "student juries" held around the country, students demanded much clearer information on funding opportunities and financial management.

Those whose parents were less able to provide financial support were often not fully aware of the support and bursaries they were entitled to, one jury heard.

"I knew people who were entitled to the access to learning fund who weren't actually getting it," one student said.

Students were often concerned about how they would repay their debts after university.

"A serious fallout of debts and student loans is that a number of students have to go back to live at their parental home after university, which is completely contrary to the usual British way of life," according to one.

Jurors complained that applying for funding was too bureaucratic, slow and complicated, and many felt that means-testing parental income was unfair, as it assumed that parents would support their children.

Student loans were criticised for being paid out in "illogical instalments" and for failing to allow flexibility in rates of repayment.

The process of applying for loans was also unclear.

"Many students don't know how to work out how much they will be likely to owe ... It is the responsibility of the Student Loans Company to give clear information about the loans system," one student told a jury.

As "paying customers", others wanted to know how their fees were being spent: "We are being forced into being customers, so we want value for our money."

Some arts students expressed resentment that they paid the same fees as students who had more contact hours.

"As an arts student, why are my fees the same as for a science course? I have less teaching time, so why aren't my fees less?" asked one.

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