Late summer rush on FE loans materialises

A late summer rush on FE loans predicted by the government after a slow uptake earlier in the year has materialised.

But there were still almost 5,000 fewer applications by the end of last month compared to the same time last year.

Figures released this week by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) showed there were 14,850 applications for FE loans in August, of which 11,830 were processed.

It represented a 99.7 per cent increase on the number of applications for the current academic year within the space of a month — from 14,880 at the end of July to 29,730.

That compared to an 82.8 per cent increase of 2013/14 applications in August last year — from 18,975 by the end of July last year to 34,700.

An AELP spokesperson said: “It’s an encouraging jump from July’s figures, but not unexpected given seasonal trends. It will be interesting to see if applications hold up as the year progresses.”

An Association of Colleges spokesperson said: “It’s still early to be sure where enrolments will end up, but we won’t really know until we see the September and October figures.

“Colleges tell us that they are seeing increased enrolments from over 24-year-olds on advanced level courses. With skills shortages in some sectors, the 24+ loan offer is a good one.”

BIS predicted there would be a late summer rush for FE loans after figures released in June showed that there had only been 1,270 applications for 2014/15 courses by May 31, of which 1,230 had been processed.

At the same point last year, there had been 2,916 applications for 2013/14 courses, of which 1,958 had been processed.

A BIS spokesperson said at the time that the previous year’s figure had been higher because “many providers encouraged early applications from learners when loans were first introduced in April 2013 in order to test the system and make sure everything was in place well in advance”.

After the latest figures were published, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education chief executive David Hughes (pictured) said: “Although the latest FE loan figures show that the number of applications are close to where they were this time last year, it’s essential we understand the impact loans are having on who’s participating in learning and not just the overall numbers of loans.

“In 2012/13, more than 400,000 learners aged 24+ were engaged in level three and four provision.

“However, data published earlier this week shows that between August 2013 and April 2014 only a provisional 52,400 adults paid for their learning with a loan.

“It will be interesting to see whether this reflects a significant reduction in participation or whether individuals and employers are bypassing loans.

“Next month’s Statistical First Release will give us the first clear indication of the impact that loans have had on learner participation.”

A BIS spokesperson said: “We will continue to monitor take-up and work with the sector to help them share best practice on how providers have made loans work for them.”