Student loans bosses stand down

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Image caption,
Thousands of students were left struggling without their grants

The chief executive and the chairman of the Student Loans Company have resigned over criticism of chaos in the student finance system.

Thousands of students in England were left without grants or loans last autumn after administration problems.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced that chief executive Ralph Seymour-Jackson and chairman John Goodfellow were quitting.

Universities minister David Willetts said new leadership was necessary.

He said: "Last year the service fell short of what students and their parents had every right to expect. While improvements have been put in place since last year, we are not out of the woods yet.

"Having read the latest report on the SLC by PricewaterhouseCoopers, it is clear that urgent changes to the leadership are needed to ensure students get the service they deserve."

Fresh leadership

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Last year's crisis in the Student Loans Company caused real upset for students and their families, many of whom lost confidence in the system. We must avoid a repetition of the problems.

"I believe a new chair and chief executive will provide the fresh leadership needed to deliver the remaining changes necessary for an improved service to customers this summer."

Professor Sir Deian Hopkin, former vice chancellor of London South Bank University, has been appointed interim chairman.

The process for the SLC Board appointing a new interim chief executive is well advanced and will be announced in due course.

Problems with the student loans system were first highlighted by the BBC News Website back in August 2009.

Documents mislaid

SLC bosses insisted any delays were in line with previous years, but a Freedom of Information request revealed some 50,000 students were waiting for their loans.

They blamed problems with the telephones and a faulty scanner system, but later reports into the chaos revealed management had underestimated the scale of the task ahead of them.

A report by the National Audit Office in March said that by the start of term in October 2009, some 43% of applications had been processed compared to 63% the previous year.

It also warned that the problems could recur this year.

Students and their parents were asked repeatedly to send birth certificates and sensitive documents, many of which were mislaid.

Disabled students and those with complicated applications faced particularly long waits.

Mr Goodfellow said in a statement: "Although there were well documented difficulties, which led to poor customer service last year for those who applied to Student Finance England, I am confident that the lessons have been learned and that the new service will realise its potential."

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