Taxpayers will have to absorb a bill of at least £50m a year to subsidise
grants and loans for students from other European Union countries, the
Conservatives claimed yesterday.
According to reports in The Daily Telegraph, European students must
be treated the same as British students under EU law. This means they will be
given subsidised loans for their fees and be eligible for maintenance grants if
they have lived in Britain for three years before starting their studies.
The Conservatives said in the Telegraph that the grants would be
‘misdirected’ if they went to EU students, because British undergraduates were
struggling to find the £3,000-a-year top-up fees coming in from September next
Education officials admitted earlier this year that there was currently no
way to recoup money from EU students who returned home.
Stephen O’Brien, the shadow minister for higher education, said that in
addition to the risk of bad debts, the cost of subsidising the loans to EU
students would be at least £40m a year.
Some 5,000 full-time EU students could also be eligible for help with living
costs after a ruling yesterday by the European Court of Justice that they would
be eligible for maintenance grants if they had lived in Britain for three years
before starting their studies.
It is estimated that this will cost about £10m to fund in the first year,
rising to £30m by the end of the three-year degree cycle.
Meanwhile, a recent survey by the National Westminster Bank has found that
the average UK graduate debt has gone up from £12,180 last year to £12,640 this
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