Why we are lobbying
Students aged 24 and over who currently study for A-Level equivalent qualifications receive 50% of their course funding from the government. From 2013/14, there will be no public subsidy and the student will be expected to pay 100% of their course fees via a student loan (exactly like in higher education). We do not believe that this will encourage access to education or provide the skills our economy needs. This policy will deter students from learning and leave those who do continue with a debt they cannot afford.
Over 375,000 students would be affected by this policy if it were introduced for the current cohort. See below for the figures from your region.
Removal of public funding for education
This is the removal of public funding for these courses. Despite further education hugely benefitting the economy and society in general (those with FE qualifications generate £70 billion over their working lives above those without qualifications; every £1 invested in an apprenticeship generates a return of £40).
Adult learners in FE
Adult learners in FE do not have the same characteristics and commitments as traditional undergraduate students in HE. They often have work, childcare and family commitments that make them less likely to study in the first place and more debt averse. Market research from the Department for Business, innovation and Skills showed that only 11% of current level 2 learners would ‘definitely’ take out a loan to study at level 3. Only a further 21% said they ‘probably’ would.
The sector is not ready to implement this policy. The AoC, UCU, Unison and NUS have all called for a pause. Nearly 70 per cent of respondents to a recent FE Week survey said the government should prolong the implementation of the scheme or abandon it completely. More than half (55 per cent) said the sector was not very aware or prepared; a further 89 per cent said the public was not very aware of the proposed system. There are also serious concerns that the Student Loan Company will not be able to implement the new system effectively.
Course type and equality impact
There has been no consideration of Access to HE courses (courses adults take to access university level courses, they will obviously need to take out another loan for HE); apprenticeships (learners can be earning as little as £2.65 per hour and will likely see this scheme as having to take out a loan to go to work); equality impact (the policy has been planned and the sector told to prepare for implementation before a thorough equality impact assessment). Based on current figures, we expect women, BAME students and those with disabilities to be disproportionately affected.
Facts and figures
According to figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, if the FE Loans policy were in place today over 375,000 learners would be effected.
Just once example of a course that would be affected is Access to Higher Education. This is a course that adults take to help them gain admission to university (like A-Levels). On most recent statistics, around 72% of people who take Access courses are women, over 27% are from a BAME background and 10% have a registered disability or learning difficulty.
Market research from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills shows that only 11% of current level 2 learners would ‘definitely’ take out an FE loan to continue to level 3. Only a further21% ’probably’ would. A total of only 32% who would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ take out an FE loan.
The Department’s own research budgets for a 20% decrease in learner numbers from this cohort.
What your MP can do to help the campaign:
- Attend Business Questions to ask the Leader of the House for a debate on Further Education Loans
(Business Questions is a time each week where MPs can ask the Leader of the House of Commons to call a debate on any issue they think is important).
- Apply for a Westminster Hall/Adjournment debate on the issue: our organisations will supply your MP with all the information and briefing he/she would need for such a debate.
(The MPs apply for a slot on the parliamentary timetable to lead a date of their choice. This is decided in a similar way to drawing a raffle!).
- Write to the Minister calling on him to scrap this scheme or at the very least delay its introduction to avert chaos in the sector and unintended consequences for learners as a result of unpreparedness.
(You could ask your MP to read this article from FE Week. )