Term date shift cuts UEL students' access to loans

Students’ union objects to change that will make thousands ineligible for extra weeks of support via ‘long courses loans’

January 8, 2015

A university has defended changes to term dates that have ended undergraduates’ access to extra student support.

Learners at the University of East London previously qualified for “long courses loans” from Student Finance England because their academic calendar stretched beyond the standard 30 weeks and three days.

For 2014-15, however, a change of term dates means that students are no longer entitled to the loan of up to £107 per additional week, depending on household income.

The UEL students’ union has passed a motion protesting that this may “lead to a decline in student retention owing to further students being unable to afford the associated costs of studying”.

The motion, which calls for wider consultation, contrasts the decision with the university’s readiness to spend nearly £2 million on Samsung tablets for 4,000 first-year students.

The university says a longer summer break will enable students to earn more by working or undertaking placements during the vacation.

But Will Nickell, the union’s ethics and environment officer, said the loss of £331 from his annual student loan had forced him to move to the other side of London to find affordable accommodation.

Figures obtained by Mr Nickell from Student Finance England under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that as many as 8,700 UEL students qualified for the long course loan in 2013-14, receiving awards totalling £3.1 million.

“Whether deliberate or otherwise, removing funding from students is going to have a knock-on effect on retention,” he said.

Nora Ann Colton, UEL’s deputy vice-chancellor (academic), said the revised term dates were part of a new academic framework that aimed to improve student learning, and had been the subject of consultation with students.

“We are very concerned to make sure our students get degrees, get good honours, and get employed, and they have a lifetime of income and graduate employment,” said Professor Colton. “We offer help and advice to students who do find themselves in financial difficulties. And of course, we’ll always be happy to meet students who have concerns during their time at UEL.”

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

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