Loans bosses resign after inquiry

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Anna Murray

Two senior directors at the Student Loans Company (SLC) have resigned following a damning external report into the problems encountered in the last year.

Wallace Gray, information and communications technology director, and Martin Herbert, marketing and customer services director, both resigned their posts at the end of December.

The report, which examined the troubles experienced by students applying for funding in 2009, found that technological and communication failures were at the root of the company’s problems.

Applicants in England had the most trouble due to the failures of new company Student Finance England (SFE). The computer system designed to ease the handling of student applications failed to work as expected, resulting in lost applications and delays.

These problems were amplified due to the inadequate provision of telephone and email services by SFE.

Applicants were unable to investigate the processing of their loans and grants, with many students unaware that their applications had been lost.

Laura Laws, President of the Student Representatives Council (SRC), believes it was right that someone should take the blame for the issues caused, but also warned that the system as a whole must be assessed to ensure similar problems will not occur again.

She said: “From the mess-ups around the delivery of student loans, to the faux-pas of awarding bonuses to managers after leaving so many students stressed and penniless for several weeks, no one can dispute the fact that the SLC has had a terrible year.

“Although someone had to take responsibility for the mistakes over the past months, the SLC should be spending a lot of time ensuring that the mistakes made this year are not repeated. If the SLC can’t sort themselves out, it’s high time the Westminster Government stepped in.”

The Student Loans Company has also suggested in a statement that problems with the new company may not be over for English applicants.

“Achieving the full vision for Student Finance England service was always supposed to be a three-year process and it is clear that there are significant lessons to be learned from the first year of operation.”