The Government published the report of the review of Higher Education Student Finance in England on 31 January at:
www.dfes.gov.uk/hegateway/hereform/studentfinance/index.cfm. The report set out recommendations and options to improve the administration of student finance. The Government have consulted interested parties, and have taken advice on the merits of the options in the report.
The Government acknowledge the important work which local authorities have undertaken over more than 40 years in administering student support. However, they believe there is an opportunity to use new technology to provide a radically better service, characterised by:
students applying online using a service built around their needs, and which sits alongside their making an application for a place in higher education;
more uniform service providing and faster decisions and payments; and
high quality information, advice and guidance, with more personalised support for those that need it, including an online financial calculator providing students with information on their entitlement to statutory support and comparing bursaries from different higher education institutions.
All this will be underpinned by a new accountability structure which concentrates on customers’ needs.
To achieve this, the Government will:
reform the Student Loans Company to become the customer-focused national delivery organisation for the service;
carefully manage the transition to the new customer-focused service (available for new students applying in September 2008 to enter higher education in the 2009-10 academic year), which will yield cost savings from around 2010-11;
retain and strengthen the existing partnership between HMRC and the Student Loans Company with the aim of improving further loan collections and customer service for graduates; and
consult on how to provide information, advice and guidance on student financial support.
My Department will engage customers in the detailed design work. We will also continue to work closely with the Student Loans Company as the new service is developed, and with the Local Government Association and wider local authority community to ensure a smooth transfer of functions to the company and maintenance of a good service to customers during the transition period.