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Foreign students skip repayment

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Millions of pounds wrongly awarded to foreign students is yet to be recovered…reports Asian Lite News

Students-on-campus_sizeMA total of £2.45m in loans and grants was given to individuals at alternative higher education providers, due to proper checks not being in place.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) said £280,000 had now been paid back by individuals, two years after the problem was discovered.

It said it was “focused on collecting every pound of taxpayer money” owed.

No deadline has yet been set for recovering the funds.

A SLC spokesman told the BBC News, “We work with each individual customer to ascertain their personal circumstances and agree a repayment plan specific to them, ensuring that all repayments plans are affordable and sustainable for the customer and will not cause them financial hardship.”

In the three years from 2010, loans and grants given to students at alternative providers, which receive no direct state funding, increased from £50m to £675m.

Until September 2013, the SLC relied solely on the word of students that they had lived in the UK for the three years needed for them to qualify for maintenance support, adds BBC News.

Payments were then suspended by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and 23 colleges were ordered to halt recruitment, as it was feared the system was being abused.

When 11,000 applications were reviewed, it was found that 992 people had been given money before stricter checks were put in place. A total of £5.4m was wrongly paid, of which £1.8m has since been found to be claimed legitimately, with the number of ineligible students falling to 766.

Of £2.45m in the hands of individual students from 23 countries, including a large number from Romania, the SLC said it had been able to recover £278,427 so far.

It also said £1.11m of £1.15m in tuition fee loans had been recouped from 136 alternative colleges, which received indirect public funding through the payments.

BBC News adds the spokesman said, “SLC has put special recovery arrangements in place to actively recoup repayment from individuals ineligible for student finance.

“Collecting repayments is one of SLC’s key business priorities and we are focused on collecting every pound of taxpayer money that is owed.”

In 2011, there was a push to increase diversity in higher education, with measures including increasing the maximum tuition fee loan from £3,375 to £6,000. It was intended to benefit English students but claims for support from other EU nationals rose from 7,000 in 2010/11 to 53,000 in 2013/14.