15 May 2012 - Source
Just one in 10 people aged 24 and over would definitely undertake a further education course at college if controversial plans to charge student loans are brought in, according to the government's own research released today.
The new system, which is scheduled to be introduced from 2013/14, would force people aged 24 and over, who wish to study for qualifications at A-Level equivalent or above, to pay the full cost of their tuition by taking out a loan like students do in higher education.
Leading voices in further education, including unions, students and employers have all called for the government to pause and raised serious concerns over whether the Student Loans Company (SLC) has been given sufficient time to develop the administration of the loans system. In recent years the SLC has been heavily criticised for failing to deliver university students' loans on time.
The general secretary of UCU, Sally Hunt, said:
'The government needs to start listening and quick. The entire further education sector has made it clear that it is not ready for these controversial changes and now people say they won't study if forced to fund their course through loans. The government needs to pause immediately to avoid another NHS-style PR disaster and to ensure the millions of people looking for work or education do not have another barrier put in their way.'
The National Union of Students vice-president (further education), Toni Pearce, said:
'It would be a national tragedy if those who have been shut out of education in the past were even further deterred from taking up life-changing routes to learning by the creation of new financial barriers. The grassroots pressure to shelve these plans is growing every day. The government must stop digging a hole for itself on this one and go back to the drawing board if a disaster for adult learners is to be averted.'
Jon Richards, Unison national secretary for education, said:
'The government must now stop and listen otherwise it risks inflicting chaos on the further education sector. Many learners are going to be priced out of education and skills altogether. Ministers should therefore call an immediate halt to their ill-thought out fees policy.'
A major survey released last week revealed that nearly 70 per cent of further education professionals, who represent more than 150 different FE colleges, said the government should prolong the implementation of the scheme or abandon it completely. More on that story can be found at feweek.co.uk/2012/05/04/....