£2.45m of taxpayers' money 'wrongly awarded' to international students by Student Loans Company

SLC spokesperson said the company is 'focused on collecting every pound of taxpayer money' as only £280,000 has been recouped so far

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The Independent Online

Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, which was ‘wrongly’ given out to international students after inadequate checks, has yet to be paid back – with only £280,000 from £2.45m given back so far.

The problem at the Student Loans Company (SLC), which was uncovered two years ago, has been outlined by the Press Association (PA) which obtained the latest figures from the finance company.

The SLC has said it is “actively tracking down” the money and that it has not written off any debts – despite no deadline being set for recovering the money – and added it was “focused on collecting every pound of taxpayer money.”

Speaking with the PA, an SLC spokesperson said: “We work with each individual customer to ascertain their personal circumstances and agree a repayment plan specific to them, ensuring that all repayments plans are affordable and sustainable for the customer and will not cause them financial hardship.”

The Government has come under fire from public spending watchdogs for not being vigilant enough in preventing financial abuse of the system after a rapid expansion within higher education colleges.

From the three years beginning in 2010, loans and grants given to students at these colleges, which receive no direct state funding, saw a substantial increase from £50m to £675m.

Payments were then suspended by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills towards the end of 2013 and over 20 colleges were told to place a hold on recruitment.

This move came after it emerged the SLC was relying completely on the student’s word that they had lived in the UK for the three years required for them to qualify for financial assistance.

The SLC spokesperson said: “SLC has put special recovery arrangements in place to actively recoup repayment from individuals ineligible for student finance,” adding that “collecting repayments is one of SLC’s key business priorities.”

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