Public loan funding extends to modern-day Mary Poppinses, make-up artists and homeopaths

Thousands of students at private colleges are already accessing public student loans, according to data obtained by Times Higher Education.

March 24, 2011

Credit: Alamy
Wheely unexpected: Experts expressed surprise that so many private and non-degree awarding bodies could access SLC funds

Almost 4,000 students at 60 private providers were granted loans by the Student Loans Company in the 2010-11 academic year, including institutions that do not have degree-awarding powers.

Among them is Norland College, the institution that trains "Norland nannies". It has been described as "the world's most upper-crust nursery training school".

It offers a BA in early childhood studies with the University of Gloucestershire.

Other institutions whose students may have access to SLC loans include the Delamar Academy, a professional make-up school in Ealing; American InterContinental University; Richmond, The American International University in London; the International College of Oriental Medicine; the Centre for Homeopathic Education; and the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading.

David Colquhoun, former A.J. Clark chair of pharmacology at University College London, said it was "horrifying" that homeopathy students were being subsidised via the SLC.

The private providers with the most students in receipt of SLC loans are the Academy of Contemporary Music and the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, which both have about 700 students drawing public loans. They are followed by the Greenwich School of Management (about 300 students), the University of Buckingham and BPP University College (each with about 200 students with loans).

Also tapping into the system are the education arm of the auction house Christie's, Wisdom Christian College and the British Ballet Organisation.

Alan Jeffery, principal of the private Wembley-based London School of Science and Technology, said that as his college is located in a poor London borough, the fact that students can access SLC loans was "vital".

"The student loan offers real hope for students wishing to improve their circumstances," he said.

But Roger Brown, professor of higher education policy at Liverpool Hope University, said that the list of eligible institutions showed the need for proper regulation.

Carl Lygo, head of BPP, said the list was "surprising" given that recent debates on higher education funding had centred on colleges with degree-awarding powers, such as his own.

Private providers apply for their courses to be designated by the SLC. Applications are assessed and passed to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for approval.

The maximum tuition-fee loan available to students studying at private institutions in 2011-12 is £3,375, and eligible students may also apply for maintenance loans and grants.

Courses attracting loans must be validated by a recognised UK awarding body.

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