Conrad Landin

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Must do better!

APOLOGIES for the elongated blogosphere absence. Hoping that this – a page 11 op-ed for this week’s Camden New Journal – will be the start of a new era of the Landiner.

It is in fact the third in a series of results columns. 2010’s piece was on the new A-star grade – and 2009’s was on the ubiquitous story of grade inflation.

Must do better! Problem with loans

THE iconic images of the past year will no doubt include the siege of Millbank tower and the wave of protests which followed. All over the country, students took to the streets in opposition to the tripling of university tuition fees.

Going to university this autumn, you might say my school year got off lightly. We did. The change doesn’t, after all, kick in until 2012.

But that won’t stop fees causing stress and anxiety to thousands of students in the coming months – as the bureaucracy of loans catches up with a demographic with no experience of financial matters.

At the start of July I got a letter from Student Finance England – the government quango which manages the student loanbook – supposedly confirming my application for finance. All fine, until I saw the course details were wrong.

So I immediately called up the company to notify them of their error. No problem, I was told, this could be corrected.

A month later, concerned that I’d heard nothing back, I called up again. Nothing had changed on my records, so they said once more they’d change it.

When I asked why my enquiry had been ignored before, I was fobbed off by the adviser, who said she couldn’t find out as she worked in a different building to the staff member I’d spoken to before.

By the end of the conversation – after repeated threats to do so, they hung up on me – I was left with a clear impression that  this bureaucracy had no regard whatsoever for its clientele.

With young people as your customers, you can, after all, take advantage of the fact that few will know about the service and practices to be expected from such a professional organisation.

Never mind the fact that this could cause considerable stress and anxiety to young people dependent on their loan payments for food and somewhere to live.

It’s terrible to think of the possible scores  of young people whose education has suffered as a result of bureaucratic incompetence at the loan company.

Anyone whose loan doesn’t get paid – and, as I’ve seen, the company is certainly capable of making such errors – will no doubt be plunged into the bureaucracy I’ve had to deal with in the past month.

This, right at the beginning of university, when you want to be thinking about the exciting potential of exploring your subject and settling into a new stage of your life – and you don’t want to spend hours on the phone dealing with someone else’s mistake.

It was all right for me in the end. The company apologised for their conduct – albeit pretty feebly – but the non-payment of loans has caused others to drop out of university entirely.

• Conrad Landin is a former sixth form student at Camden School for Girls


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