Foreign students leaving UK debts


Up to 70% of students from other European Union countries are failing to repay student loans they took out while at UK universities, the BBC has learnt.

The Student Loans Company says 2,240 students should have begun repayments but 1,580 are not accounted for.

A Spanish student said she had heard nothing five years after graduating.

The government says the SLC is doing what it can to track people down. Take-up of the entitlement is growing fast, with 46,000 now having borrowed £130m.

Students from EU countries have been eligible for low interest loans from the British taxpayer to pay for their tuition fees since 2006.

EU students are entitled to the same allowances as those in the countries in which they study.

So the loans are available for those at universities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. EU students at Scottish universities do not normally have to pay fees.

Most of those involved are still at university so are not due to begin repaying loans until the year after graduation or withdrawal from university, and once they are earning more than £15,000. Lower salary levels apply in most other European countries.

SLC figures show that 2,240 students were due to begin repayment in 2007 and 2008. But 59% of those due to start paying back their loans in 2007 did not do so, while last year that number rose to 70%.

According to the SLC records those students, some 1,580 of them, are unaccounted for. The loans for both years were worth about £3.8m.


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