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UK explores allowing UK students to use loans for courses at University of Gibraltar

Photo courtesy of the University of Gibraltar.

The UK Government continues to explore options to allow UK students to use their loans to study at the University of Gibraltar, the House of Commons was told last week.

The university receives numerous queries from UK students interested in studying in Gibraltar.

But the UK system means they cannot use their student loans to fund their studies here.

The issue was raised in the Commons by Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell in a question to the UK Department for Education.

He asked whether the UK provided support and financial assistance to UK students who wish to study at the University of Gibraltar.

In his reply, Minister of State for Education Robert Halfon told Parliament: “The department does not provide support or financial assistance to UK students who wish to study at the University of Gibraltar.”

But he added: “We are exploring the options for financing English students to study in Gibraltar, whilst ensuring that those students receive an education, and that they benefit from safeguards which are broadly comparable with those in England.”

This is not the first time the question of UK students studying in Gibraltar has been asked in Westminster.

Matt Western, the Shadow Minister for Education, previously raised the same question in July 2022, receiving the same response.

Enabling UK students to use their student loans to study here would provide an important boost to the University of Gibraltar, which increasingly is offering a range of degrees and courses tapping into Gibraltar’s unique offering in areas such as marine science and the maritime sector.

A spokesperson for the University told the Chronicle it receives an average of four enquiries a week from UK-domiciled students who would like to study for their undergraduate degree at the University of Gibraltar.

“A key attraction is University of Gibraltar’s alignment with the UK Higher Education [HE] system and UK Quality standards including the fact that University of Gibraltar was recently awarded global accreditation by the UK Quality Assurance Agency [QAA] having met all ten international quality standards,” the spokesperson said.

“However, almost all UK-domiciled students require a student loan to undertake HE studies.”

“Most UK-domiciled students receive funding from the UK Student Loans Company [SLC], a non-profit making government-owned organisation that administers loans and grants to students in colleges and universities in the UK.”

“Currently, UK domiciled students are unable to use their SLC funding in Gibraltar and as such discussions have been taking place with the UK Department for Education [DfE] to explore whether English-domiciled students could be allowed to use their UK loans to study for their undergraduate degree at University of Gibraltar on the same terms as UK universities.”

In exploring this possibility, the UK’s Department of Education has gathered information from a number of parties, including Dr Cortes as Minister for the University, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, the spokesman said.

“In terms of information related to ‘safeguards which are broadly comparable with those in England’ questions have revolved around quality and regulation,” the spokesman added.

“Following meetings between the UK regulator [OfS] and the Gibraltar regulator [GRA], and questions put to the University of Gibraltar, there appears to be broad comparability between systems; particularly in terms of quality standards - the QAA accreditation assisting here - and the fact Gibraltar has a legislated regulatory framework in place.”

“However, there was some discussion as to whether a more detailed mapping or comparison exercise was needed to assure that there are no gaps between the GRA and OfS regulatory systems.”

“It is understood that the Department for Education ministers are currently considering the evidence gathered and will be asked to come to a decision in due course.”

“As such, it is difficult to make further comment at this point in time.”

The UK Department for Education did not respond to requests for comment on the issue, while the Gibraltar Government declined to comment.

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