Medical student England

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Vow to protect poorer students in loans shake-up

Medical student leaders have pledged to monitor attempts to alter student loan arrangements to ensure poorer students were not dissuaded from entering medicine.

Student debtPotential major changes to England’s student loan system could see higher tuition fees and changes in loan terms, while universities could take on some of the risk of the loans given to their own students. 

Former universities and science minister David Willetts said the ideas were worthy of further exploration but the government has emphasised that this is not official Whitehall policy.

BMA medical students committee joint deputy chair Will Sapwell said: ‘We are watching these developments very closely and will feed into any future consultations.

‘We will, of course, seek to ensure that the outcome is as fair and equitable and possible. The MSC is committed to ensuring that no able student is dissuaded from pursuing a medical career because they feel they can’t afford to train.’

Mr Willetts told the TV programme Newsnight in July: ‘Why not give universities that wish it the opportunity of holding the loans belonging to their own graduates? So, suddenly, there is a direct connection between the university and the graduate.’

Transfer of debt

Currently, the Treasury loans students money for their tuition fees and living costs during their undergraduate courses and repayments only begin when students have graduated and are earning more than £21,000 per year.

If, in future, universities were able to buy the debt, those institutions whose students repaid more of their debts would stand to profit.

However, there are fears that the Treasury might then allow universities to charge more tuition fees if they were sharing some of the risk.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson said: ‘The department regularly conducts research in order to explore the viability of policy suggestions and these play an important role in informing ministers and shaping policy. 

‘David Willetts commissioned this research when he was the universities and science minister and it does not represent government policy.’

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