Payback time could be delayed for part-time students

October 11, 2011

The government is to look again at proposals that could leave some part-time students repaying tuition fee loans while they are still studying.

Following a hearing of the Education Bill in the House of Lords last week, the government agreed to revisit the current plans – which would require part-time students to begin repayment three-and-a-half years after starting a course provided they are earning £21,000 or more.

The indication came in a debate on an amendment to the Bill brought by Liberal Democrat peers, who considered the issue at their party conference and argue the period should be extended to at least four-and-a-half years.

Baroness Brinton, one of the Lib Dem peers who put forward the amendment, said in the hearing that while she was not calling "for a complete deferral", her proposal had "the merit of including the majority of part-time students concluding by that time, with only a very few going on beyond five years of study".

In reply, Conservative peer Baroness Verma, speaking on behalf of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, said that while she could not commit to the amendment as it stood, she would raise the concerns with David Willetts, the universities and science minister.

"This is a very valid point and one that we need to consider very seriously", she told the grand committee hearing. "It would be a great benefit to go back to [Mr Willetts] and raise with him genuine concerns. While I cannot commit to the exact amendment as it is, it is worthy of a revisit."

Belinda Brooks-Gordon, an academic and Lib Dem councillor who brought a motion at her party’s conference calling for a review of the policy, said she was "delighted that the government seemed to be listening".

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