Student loans staff awarded £2m bonuses

Published

Anna Murray

Student Loans Company (SLC) staff shared almost £2 million in bonuses between 2008 and 2009.

A total of £1,893,500 was paid out, with 1603 of 1876 SLC staff members reported to have received bonuses. The five heads of the company received rewards of between £15,000 and £21,000 each.

The figures, revealed on November 16 after a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Liberal Democrats, also included the amount claimed by SLC staff in expenses during the same year. More than £1,200,000 was claimed overall — an increase of over £400,000 on expenses claimed in 2007-08.

The SLC is responsible for administering government funded loans and encompasses both the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and Student Finance England (SFE).

The revelation has angered the many students who were left waiting for weeks at the start of term for funding and were unable to get through to staff either on the telephone or through the e-mail system set up.

An SLC representative told Guardian that the performance-related bonuses are subject to change each year.

“These bonuses relate to last year and were based on a format, agreed in advance, which reflected performance against an agreed set of targets. Obviously the decisions on the 09-10 bonuses will be taken next year.”

The failures of the SLC this year have left many students unable to pay their rent and afford basic necessities. Some of those most directly affected were from low income families who were awaiting receipt of bursaries.

In Scotland, a record-breaking number of requests for funding left SAAS struggling to dispense all loans and bursaries in time for the start of the academic year.

As of November 26, approximately 62,000 students whose applications for support had been approved were still awaiting their first maintenance payments.

University of Glasgow students received help from the Student Representatives’ Council (SRC) Advice Centre, with many seeking an emergency hardship loan until the payment of their loans and bursaries had been received.

Laura Laws, President of the SRC, said: “SAAS and Student Finance England have really let students down this year. It would be disgusting if the bosses of these groups awarded themselves large bonuses this year when customer service has been so appalling. This money could be better used ensuring they have systems and staff in place so this situation is fixed this year and cannot happen again next year.”

For the first time this year, English students’ applications for funding were processed by Student Finance England (SFE) rather than through their Local Education Authority (LEA).

The change was meant to make applying for funding easier but the failure of a new computer system resulted in lost applications.

An SFE call centre worker disclosed to Guardian in October that employees dealing with the ongoing problems had only been given a few days training.

The worker remarked: “The real scandal in all this is the way in which education, a public service, is being run and managed.”

The SLC have issued a statement apologising to students affected by the delays.

Describing the current situation, a spokesman said: “The majority of students have now received their full entitlement and we are working very hard to ensure that the remaining applicants receive their funding as soon as possible.”

He added: “We conducted an internal review and are co-operating with an external review to ensure that next year we can deliver the service that students and their parents have every right to expect.”