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0430 MONEY Students 1Thousands sign segregation petition

More than 4,600 people have signed a petition fighting Universities UK’s apparent endorsement of sex segregation in UK universities. Segregated seating, described by the petition as “gender apartheid” was recently the subject of a report by Universities UK, advising universities managing “controversial guest speakers” or groups to ensure “the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully”.

The guidance, aiming to allow certain religious groups to hold debates in accordance with their belief systems, has however caused controversy, with the petition claiming that “segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal”. Previous controversies include the threats of academic Lawrence Krauss to walk out of a UCL debate in March, after attempts were allegedly made to enforce the audiences’ separation. UCL commented that it does “not allow enforced segregation on any grounds”, later banning the group hosting the debate from campus. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, noted universities’ responsibility to “balance their obligation to encourage free speech with their duties to ensure that the law is observed, the safety and security of staff, students and visitors secured, and good campus relations promoted”, adding however that “achieving this balance is not always easy”.

38,000 loans unaccounted for

The National Audit Office has indicated that hundreds of millions of pounds of public money is currently unaccounted for, after being paid out in student loans to students the government now has no employment records for. The watchdog has warned that the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) is not doing enough to ensure that all those who took out loans under the scheme and are now earning £21,000 or more annually are repaying these loans. BIS has been found to have no employment records for around 38,000 borrowers.

While in many cases this indicates unemployed former students living in the UK, the NAO has claimed BIS and the Student Loans Company (SLC) have not sufficiently analysed how many of these borrowers may be former EU or UK students now working overseas, who may be earning enough to begin repaying their loans. The NAO has called on the government to improve information gathered about those who have taken out loans. A BIS spokesperson commented: “We are continually improving the collection process for borrowers and we will carefully consider the NAO’s recommendations as part of this programme”.

Hannah Butler, News Team

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