Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

On or off the Books? Let the MPs Decide

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

On or off the Books? Let the MPs Decide

Article excerpt

NAO and PAC study of student loans should look at public oversight, experts argue. John Morgan writes.

A committee of MPs will examine the student loans system later this year, with some in the sector urging it to consider whether the funding should be judged as public spending and subject to tighter controls.

The National Audit Office, which scrutinises public spending on behalf of Parliament, is working on a study of the student loans system to be published in the autumn.

The Public Accounts Committee will then hold a hearing into the auditors' findings.

On its website in a summary of the work in progress, the NAO says that by the end of March 2012, the student loan book was valued at Pounds 28 billion and "is set to rise further in step with the recent increase in tuition fee loans".

It adds that the study will "examine the arrangements overseen by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Student Loans Company", and operated through the pay-as-you-earn tax system.

However, others in the sector believe that the NAO and the PAC could range beyond this territory.

Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, has raised the issue that funding routed via the SLC - which will constitute virtually all English higher education funding for teaching by 2014-15 - is subject to less regulation and oversight by Hefce.

Speaking at the council's annual meeting in November and in response to audience questions, Sir Alan said that it was "a moot point" as to whether money flowing through the SLC "is public or private money". …

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