Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Roman Boed

The interest on student loans in England should be scrapped for 15 months, a group of universities says

Vice-chancellors of seven universities have asked for interests on student loans to be scrapped for 15 months, saying that this would cover the period from the first national lockdown until summer 2021. 

In a letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, the vice-chancellors said that students are greatly financially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the scrapped loans would ease the pressure on graduates. 

The letter is signed by seven vice-chancellors, including Prof Robert Van de Noort from the University of Reading and Prof Frances Corner from Goldsmiths, University of London. 

The letter says that “the opportunity and wealth gap between the young and old is already unacceptably large – and existing challenges are being amplified by the impact of the pandemic on students and their life chances”. 

The opportunity and wealth gap between the young and old is already unacceptably large

– Letter from vice-chancellors to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The letter also states that the pandemic has placed “unprecedented pressures on our students”. However, the universities Minister Michelle Donelan said that the vice-chancellors’ proposal wouldn’t put cash into students’ pockets to support them during the pandemic.

The government responded claiming that the scrapped loans would not help students in need, while announcing an extra £50m for student hardship funds in England, on top of £20m agreed in December.

Students in England are currently charged 5.6% on their student loans while they are studying, based on the retail price index, plus 3% – this applies until 5 April, after students graduate, and then the interest depends on their earnings. 

The majority of university students in England have been told not to return to campus due to lockdown laws, which has fuelled demands for accommodation rent refunds and tuition fee refunds.

At the University of Warwick, students have engaged in a Rent Strike, with the Student Union recently supporting the strikes following the All Student Vote on Friday 5 February.

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