The National Audit Office reveals that foreign students are targeting alternative higher education providers and whipping millions of pounds in student loan payments.
The December 2014 report focused on students claiming this support for which they were not eligible, but the report released on Wednesday looked at the Department’s delivery in resolving this major issue.
Current reports show that the Department had failed to recover £36 million of the £45 million, which includes £16 million paid to EU students who failed to meet residency requirements. The reports also found that compared to universities, alternative providers have higher non-continuation rate.
“Alternative providers make a strong contribution to the UK’s higher education system, offering great choice, diversity and opportunities for students.”
However, it also said there’s been a significant reduction in ineligible payments since 2014 and the level of payments made to students attending providers fell from 4 per cent in 2012/103 to 0.5 per cent in 2015/2016.
The Department has made an attempt to reduce the number of ineligible payments to students at alternative providers but it does not have sufficiently timely and specific data to allow prompt measurement of the level of ineligible payments or analysis of trends, the report says. Further, the drop out rates at these alternative providers has fallen but it still remains higher than in the rest of the higher education sector.
In September 2017, out of 112 alternative providers that were accessing student support funding, the Department has taken action against 11 providers with high non-continuation rates. SAE Institution London, London School of Business and Finance and City of London College – three largest institutions based in London, are no longer designated for student support because of high non-continuation rate and the Department has issued improvement notices on the remaining eight.
BPP University limited had non-continuation rates worse than its benchmark in ‘first degree’ qualifications. It has around 1000 undergraduates starting courses in 2014/15. The Voice of London is still waiting for response from these institutions.
In a statement released by The Department of Education, a spokesperson said: “Alternative providers make a strong contribution to the UK’s higher education system, offering great choice, diversity and opportunities for students.
“We welcome the NAO report and are pleased that it acknowledges the department’s improved regulation of the sector to ensure quality and value for money. The oversight will be strengthened further by the new Office for Students, which has regulatory powers to hold institutions to account.”
Words: Bishakha Dutta