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Bill to affect all student loans

The possibility of student loans for further education students opened up this week with the publication of legislation for university tuition fees. The Teaching and Higher Education Bill gives ministers sweeping powers to regulate fees in FE colleges as well as universities.

It will allow universities and colleges to charge the proposed Pounds 1,000 fee for higher education and introduces reforms of the student loans system.

Under the proposals graduates will be able to borrow to cover their full living expenses, repaying the interest-free loans over many years through the income tax system, according to their future income.

The changes focus on higher education. But the details of the Bill apply equally to further education students, raising the possibility of maintenance loans for students on FE courses.

Extending loans to part-time students and those in FE is a key recommendation of both the Kennedy report on widening participation and the Fryer report on lifelong learning, which will form the basis of next year's Lifelong Learning White Paper.

Senior members of the National Advisory Group on Adult Continuing Education have made it clear that they will continue to press for what they say is a fair deal for part-timers and FE students.

Support for FE students will also be a key part of plans to reform discretionary awards. Graham Lane, education chairman of the Local Government Association and chairman of a new Government working group on student support, has already argued for more help for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Colleges will also face regulation over tuition fees.

The Bill will ban institutions from levying top-up fees, granting ministers and funding bodies sweeping powers to claw back grants if extra fees are charged.

The legislation is designed to prevent elite universities charging undergraduates for courses. But it applies equally to further education colleges - banning the practice of charging fees for sixth form studies and allowing ministers to control the fees charged across the board in colleges.

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