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Student support: restricted modification of repayment terms

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 21st November 2016.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education) 6:30 pm, 21st November 2016

That represents a decrease in the capital value of the loan book.

The cost of uprating by the consumer prices index, as new clause 10 proposes, would be less, but still significant. These costs would need to be paid for by taxpayers, many of whom will be earning less than the graduates who would benefit from the threshold increase.

New clause 10 relates to access to support for students recognised as needing protection. This is an important issue which was raised by Paul Blomfield in Committee, and is already addressed, as we have discussed, within the student support regulations. I am pleased to say that those who come to this country and obtain international protection are already able to access student support. Our regulations have for some time included provision for those granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, and their family members.

Those persons entering the UK under the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme, and granted humanitarian protection, will be eligible, like UK nationals, to obtain student support and home-fee status after only three years’ residence in the UK. Persons on the programme are not precluded from applying for refugee status if they consider that they meet the criteria. Those with refugee status are uniquely allowed to access student support immediately, a privilege not afforded to UK nationals or those granted other forms of leave. There is a distinction in international law between such status and that of those in need of humanitarian protection.

Recently the Supreme Court upheld the Government’s policy of requiring most persons, including UK citizens, to be ordinarily lawfully resident in the UK for at least three years immediately prior to starting their course in order to be eligible for student support. The amendment would allow people who may subsequently be required to leave the country to access taxpayer funding for their study.

The last group of amendments includes some technical Government amendments relating to alternative student finance. Unless hon. Members show an interest in them, I will move on to my conclusion.

This Government are committed to a sustainable and fair student funding system. We are seeing more people going to university than ever before, and record numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our funding system has enabled us to lift the cap on student numbers and, with it, the cap on aspiration that it represented. I hope the Opposition can see that if their amendments were not pressed, the student funding regime would remain sustainable, working in the best interests of students and taxpayers.