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Power to make alternative payments

Part of Higher Education and Research Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 13th October 2016.

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Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Education) 3:45 pm, 13th October 2016

I observe in passing that the Minister keeps saying there has been a great improvement in disadvantaged student access. I would not say it is a great improvement; I would say it is an important improvement. That is true if we look at 18 to 21-year-olds, but as he has heard me say ad nauseam, it is not true of adult, mature or part-time students. On loans, it is late in the day and I do not wish to be controversial, but if I were being controversial, I could say that those are rather weasel words. A loan is not a guarantee of that money being spent. A loan is going to be used and spent only if the people who are offered it feel it is of sufficiently good value to take it up. The truth of the matter is, and we have seen this with the advanced learner loans, that when adult students in particular do not think they can afford those loans, they do not get taken up. Some 50% of the advanced learner loans did not get taken up and that money went straight back to the Treasury, so that is not money that is automatically invested, but money that is offered, and if the terms of trade are not right, people will not take them.