NI politicians protest to Student Loans Co

October 29, 1999

A delegation of politicians from Northern Ireland went to the Student Loans Company in Glasgow this week on behalf of about 700 undergraduates who were still waiting to receive the first instalment of their loans.

The National Union of Students/Union of Students in Ireland called for an investigation of the administration of student loans in the province, blaming "cumbersome rules and bureaucracy" for the delay.

The company privately points the finger at the students and Ulster's five area education boards, but the Department of Education said the boards had processed 95 per cent of received applications.

The company promised to pay cash within seven days of receiving applications that are in order. In Northern Ireland about 25,000 first and second-year students can apply for loans and it is believed at least 75 per cent have done so. But after the first week of the new semester only 2,000 students at Queen's, the University of Ulster, and mainland universities had cheques.

Complicated new guidelines from the province's Department of Employment and Finance appear to be at the core of the problem. SDLP Assembly member Tommy Gallagher, the party's education spokesman, who led the delegation, said: "There is no easy solution, but we believe these guidelines are too complex and will have to be modified.

"The company accepted its system of processing applications is overly bureaucratic and we explored ways of paring it down."

The SLC agreed to give emergency help to a number of particularly pressing cases. It also said 11,568 cheques had been paid out to Northern Ireland students taking courses in the province and on the mainland.

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