Sunday, January 22, 2012

British interests

Official figures, we are told, show that 45 percent of students from EU countries who were liable to start repaying loans had disappeared or were in arrears as of last April. Thus, the total outstanding debt liable to be repaid by EU borrowers at the end of 2009/10 was £47.4 million, according to the Department for Business (BIS), which published the figures.

But that means, according to Failygraph education correspondent Julie Henry, "If the thousands of students missing or in arrears never pay, more than £20 million would be lost to the Treasury". I am not sure I follow that line of reasoning. At the moment, the debt is already at £47.4 million and, if no more payments are made, more than £20 million will be lost? Technically, that may be correct, but it is an odd way of putting it.

However, flash back to February 2009 – nearly three years ago, and you will get a much better idea of what is going on from The Daily Mail. It correctly predicted this insult, then telling us that tens of thousands more from the EU were currently at university, having borrowed £124million to cover tuition fees, which then stood at £3,145-a-year.

With 45 percent of EU students who were liable to start repaying loans having now disappeared or in arrears as of last April, therefore, we are exposed to a sum well in excess of £60 million and, as the fees go up to £9,000 a year and more EU students are processed through the system, that sum can only increase.

Back in 2009, though, the Student Loans Company insisted that measures to identify and trace EU students would be in place by April 2010, when large numbers of EU students began to graduate.

Compare and contrast this with the statement today from Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, who says that non-repayment by overseas students is "inherent in the system." "Many EU students will never pay back their loans. We were never going to be able to recover loan debts from EU students to the same level as domestic students.

Back in 2009, we were remarking: "The real question, though, is why we are giving foreign students loans in the first place. And the answer is … EU rules. Under the non-discrimination provisions of the Treaties, whatever applies to UK nationals must also be given to any Jacques, Fritz or Toni who happens on these shores".

The writing was on the wall ever since the ECJ made a judgement on the issue in 2004, and now we are well and truly stuck.

Then, a spokesman for the Department for Universities, Innovation and Skills said trace agents are being used to hunt down students who failed to repay their loans. So, in the darkest regions of Naples, we suggested that, amid the mounds of rubbish, "we can be assured that British interests are being looked after".

Yeah, right! And so the pigs flew over in squadrons.