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Take the money and run

1 October 2013

It’s not generally known, but students from the European Union are eligible for student loans on the same basis as students from Britain. So British taxpayers are forking out for loans to students from France, Germany and so on to come here and take up state-funded university places. And for many of them, it’s a completely free ride. 

In theory, these EU students have to repay their loans on the same basis as British students. In practice, only just over half of them are repaying the loans as they should, while a third of them don’t even start repaying their debt.

That fact was neatly obscured for a while when minister David Willetts said in parliament on 2 July 2012 that 9 per cent of EU students who had loans from the British government “were considered to be in arrears”.

What Willetts forgot to add, and was buried in a report from the Student Loans Company last year, was that there were a further 33 per cent classified as “not currently repaying – further information being sought” (which is to say, the Student Loans Company had lost track of them). Only 2 per cent of British students fall into that category.

Companion article: The next mis-selling scandal: why most of today’s students may never clear their debts