6.30pm:Theresa May has announced she will launch an inquiry into the financial aid offices at the University of Sheffield, which she claims are “unjustly” paying out millions of pounds in student loans.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Ms May said she would be launching a review of the UK’s student loan system to see if “financial aid is working as intended”.
The inquiry will look at “whether there is a risk that students are not getting the services they need in order to complete their degree and secure the employment that they want”, she said.
“We are calling on the universities to ensure that they can pay their staff appropriately and with fairness, and to do so in a manner that meets their student loans repayments,” she said, adding that the UK had the highest rates of repayment in Europe.
Ms May said the universities had not been paying out “the right amount” and were “at a disadvantage” when it came to financial aid.
“I am calling on all the universities in the UK to take urgent action to ensure they are paying their staff properly and with equity, and that they are meeting their students’ needs, including for students with a disability,” she added.
“The Government has already committed £30 million to tackle this problem, and we will also commit additional funding over the next few years to address the need for student loans to be repaid in full.”
The Prime Minister made the announcement in a tweet.
In August, the government announced that the average student loan balance at UK universities had risen by almost £5,000 in the last three years.
In the last five years, the average loan balance has increased by £3,400 at UK colleges and universities.
The UK is a major financial aid recipient to the rest of Europe, accounting for more than one-third of the continent’s total aid to the poorer countries.
The Department for Education said the UK government would work with universities to “take action to tackle the situation” and the Government would be announcing more information on the inquiry in the coming weeks.