Initially founded in 1990 in order to help out university students with the cost of living while in studying, student finance has become a cornerstone of the British higher education system.
Following the introduction of tuition fees in 1997 – and further increases in these charges – the number of students taking a loan through a student finance provider has risen from 28% (in the 1990/91 academic year) to almost 100% of British scholars.
Largely administered through the Student Loans Company, student finance allows those taking up high education to have their tuition fees paid for through a low-interest loan, while also providing a small stipend for living costs for those who require them. Repayment on these loans is then not triggered until graduates are in employment and earn over a certain threshold annually.
Currently, the Student Loans Company have their head offices spread across two locations in Glasgow, Scotland, and the business also has staff working in Darlington, England and Colwyn Bay, Wales. From these four sites a workforce of 1,894 employees deal with an estimated £3 billion in loans, handed out to around 1 million different people – though much of the process is automated, workers are required to deal with rectifying faults in the system and addressing complaints and queries from customers.
Given the scale of the operation, it is unsurprising that there have been a number of scandals involving student finance – most common have been former students overpaying on previous loans, and current students being left not being credited the funds they’re entitled to, with both issues linked to the quality of infrastructure in place.