Have you noticed how good the Westminster government has become at releasing bad news late on Saturday afternoons, in the hope that Sunday newspapers are already committed to other stories and that by Monday it will be “old news” and forgotten?
Last weekend, it released student loan arrears figures, accrued over the past five years: £28 million in the case of UK nationals, and a whopping £52m owed by student nationals from other European Union countries.
What’s more, the Student Loans Company (SLC) estimates that £41m of the EU student debt is going to be irrecoverable because the debtors have decamped to their own countries, deliberately failing to give SLC a contact address. The SLC is actually hiring private detectives to try to trace the worst offenders.
I might be old-fashioned, but to me student loans are part of the moneys we commit to support our education system, and the £41m that the SLC may have to write off is £41m that should have been spent far closer to home – to universities, perhaps, to extend a wider welcome to students from disadvantaged backgrounds; more money to support children with learning difficulties or more money for school sports provision.
Apparently, it is EU law which dictates that our student loan system is open to visiting EU students. What kind of dumb country funds the education of other countries’ children, but then fails adequately to educate its own?
The sort of country led by over-privilegedunder-achievers who were privately educated, I suppose.
If the Eton boys seriously mean to renegotiate our relationship with the EU that wouldn’t be a bad place to start.