Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Rushing through of Loans Legislation Is a 'Constitutional Disgrace': Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Rushing through of Loans Legislation Is a 'Constitutional Disgrace': Fe News

Article excerpt

Critics object to its being laid on the last day of Parliament.

The decision to push through regulations implementing the FE loans system on the last day of Parliament this month without any debate or scrutiny has been branded a "procedural and constitutional disgrace" by MPs.

Regulations for the fees and loans system, which would mean thousands of pounds of debt for students aged over 24 taking A-level equivalent courses from 2013, will be laid before Parliament on 16 July. Because they do not require any primary legislation, what has been described as the biggest change to adult education funding in a generation would come into force automatically if there are no objections.

Shadow FE minister Gordon Marsden said that the regulations would come into force on 1 September, before MPs have returned to Parliament and had the chance to object. He has written to John Hayes, the FE minister, in protest at the "hidden" resolution just before the summer recess and failure to allow any time for scrutiny before the regulations become law.

"It seems to me there is almost no precedent for such important regulations being put through in such a way that prevents any chance of debate or discussion on what are the biggest changes in funding support for adult learners and further education in a generation," he wrote. "Taken together this would be both a procedural and constitutional disgrace. It also creates potential havoc for colleges who need to plan courses and staff numbers for the academic year given that these changes are likely to have a negative impact on both."

While it is likely that the loans proposals would be voted through in the event of a full debate, Mr Marsden said that scrutiny could prevent regulations that were not fit for purpose. "John Hayes is always saying that FE should be treated with the same respect as HE (higher education) - but with HE loans we had a debate on the floor of the House," he said, adding that the FE system represented a bigger change than simply raising a fee cap as with HE.

The lack of protection for science, technology, engineering and maths subjects is among the areas Mr Marsden said are causing "alarm". Since such courses tend to be more expensive, students are more likely to be discouraged by debt, and unlike the HE loans system they will receive no special funding. …

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