Victory on loan payment dates

June 7, 2002

Stirling University students are claiming a victory on loan payments that could lead to students across the UK being able to choose when and how much they are paid.

Stirling has had a two-semester year since its foundation in 1967, the first running from early September to December, and the second from mid-February to May. The university's students association, Susa, has been campaigning for students to be paid half the loan at the start of each semester to help them budget.

The Student Loans Company has been bound by regulations to pay loans in three instalments, but following the intervention of Scottish ministers, Scottish students at Stirling will have two instalments from this autumn.

Kelly Curran, Susa's vice-president, said: "Receiving their money in three instalments rather than two makes it very difficult for our students to manage their money effectively for the whole year. Last September, for example, they received two of the three instalments within two days in freshers' week. In most cases this was £2,500. They then got the final £1,300 on the first day of semester in February. Not surprisingly, many students had run out of money by Easter this year."

Melanie Ward, Susa president, said about 74 per cent of Stirling's students were Scots, but she believed the change could potentially benefit students at all semesterised institutions. There were "fairly positive indications" that the Department for Education and Skills would follow Scotland's lead.

English higher education minister Margaret Hodge has told Ms Ward that she wants the DFES to consider how to make loans more flexible "so that students can choose how many instalments of loan they want and potentially, how much of the loan they wish to draw on at any one time".

Ms Hodge said she would probably want to pilot changes in a few institutions before changing the scheme for all students, and warned that costs would need to be considered.

A spokeswoman for the Student Loans Company said other UK students would be paid in future on Stirling's preferred dates of September 16, November 25 and February 10.

"It should be stressed that the considerable efforts to enable these changes are the clearest possible demonstration and confirmation of the Student Loans Company's genuine commitment to helping UK students in every way possible," she said.

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