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Blog Highlights

This blog has been running for over 10 years. It is not just a site for commentary but has also been used for investigative work, much of which was picked up subsequently by mainstream and industry press. It has been dominated by student loans and the ‘RAB charge’ : subjects poorly treated in the mainstream and industry press

Key stories include:

2012 The suspension of London Metropolitan’s licence to issue Tier 4 student visas

2013 We broke the redaction on the government-commissioned Rothschild report into the sale of student loans. This was a major source of information on sale progress. Rothschild told the government: ‘Capitalism is suspended’.

2013 A £1.7billion  hole spotted in the Autumn Statement.

2013/14 Coverage of the multi-million pound budgetary crisis in the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills that was only averted when the Treasury agreed to change the accounting and budgeting conventions for student loans.

2014 This blog has covered government nurturing of ‘new Providers’ (now known as alternative providers or challenger institutions) in detail. This culminated in a collaboration with the Guardian on ‘Cashpoint Colleges’ that led to a National Audit Office enquiry and two Public Accounts Committee hearings.

2015 Analysis of the government’s decisions to freeze the repayment threshold for loan repayments and to abolish maintenance grants. These represent a retrospective price hike for graduates – with the majority of the additional repayments falling on poorer students – and a tax on social mobility.

2014 & 2015 How discount rates affect student loan repayment projections and why they were changed.

2016 The Student Loans Company took down its repayment calculator after criticism. The SLC assumed all graduates were male and attributed misleading annual salary increases to all borrowers.

2017: Appearances (videos & transcripts) before the Economic Affairs Committee and the Treasury Committee covering developments in the sale of student loans and further details on the fiscal illusions in student loan accounting.
The first account of how early debt write-offs would affect national accounts.

2018: ONS announces a review into student loan accounting after intervention by Eurostat and the Office for Budgetary Responsibility.

By December it had chosen a new model.

Critical coverage of the government’s plans to restart a sales programme of student loans to the private sector.
The government eventually abandoned this programme after the ONS admitted it needed to change the way in which student loans (and their sales) appeared in the national accounts.

A little bit of historical thinking: Whatever happened to the Polytechnics?

Extensive discussion of student loan interest rates and the thinking behind the current taper.


Governance failures at University of Reading.

Confirmed losses (as predicted) on programme of loan sales. Which the ONS later confirmed would now affect “the deficit”.

How the Russell Group and Moneysavingexpert got it all wrong on student loan repayment estimates.

And some guidance on how to write about student loans.


Accounting for activists.

Coverage in Private Eye of my report for Sussex UCU.

The end of the student loan sale programme (for now).


Budgetary pressures on DfE – the unplanned cost of student loans


I write and research as a freelancer on higher education. I am available for consultation, but I prefer to work with unions.

I previously taught at CityLit and Central Saint Martins. Mainly various bits of mathematics from a philosophical or cultural history viewpoint, with an emphasis on geometry and ideas. I was the co-founder of Fine Art Maths Centre at Central Saint Martins.

In 2012 I wrote the (unfortunately) prescient The Great University Gamble: money, markets and the future of higher education and more recently a pamphlet for Higher Education Policy Institute on accounting and budgeting for student loans. I am pondering a second book on HE policy to review the last decade.

I hold a doctorate from the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (now at Kingston University) and have taught and supervised at Middlesex University, University of Westminster and Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Information on my philosophy and arts research can be found here:

All views here are personal. This blog is run on a voluntary basis with no commercial or outside support.

Contact: andrewjmcgettigan AT

Twitter: @amcgettigan

  1. Reid Galbraith permalink

    Hi Andrew
    Thank you for your interesting articles about student loans both here in the UK and in New Zealand.
    I feel a bit silly asking about a personal student loan matter, but perhaps you can recommend a contact for professional and accurate New Zealand student loan advice? I want to talk to someone I can trust, rather than the self proclaimed ‘experts’ I’ve seen online.

    Thank you

  2. Andrew, the last time I looked, 45% of student debt wasn’t expected to be repaid. How do you feel about the morality of saying that loans can be repaid from higher graduate earnings?

  3. I agree the changes to student loan financing are regressive: poorer students are disadvantaged by Ballooning debt which increases on a cumulative 30 year curve because of the compounding charges and if postgraduate loans are repaid concurrently, postgraduate studies are not an option for students with maintenance loans.

    • This is a common misunderstanding. The loan repayments are income-contingent. The current function of interest rates is to keep high earners in repayment. Poorer graduates are not disadvantaged by the interest rate, because they are much less likely even to repay the original principal borrowed. The interest accuring compounds but it may not be repaid, instead the government pledges to write off outstanding balances 30 years after graduation.

      For simplicity, imagine you have borrowed £45000. To repay in cash £45000 over 30 years, you face an average payment of £1500. Today you’d have to be earning over £37 500 to repay that.

  4. Hi Andrew,

    My name is Anuj Agarwal. I’m Founder of Feedspot.

    I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Andrew McGettigan has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 75 Higher Education Blogs on the web.

    I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 75 Higher Education Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

    Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.


  5. Marcais O’Conghaile permalink

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m an academic at Cardiff University (I spoke to you briefly after UCU conference a few years ago).

    Can you advise me where to access information on Cardiff University’s financial position?

    Also, you set out a strategy whereby academics can hold university management to account; do you have a copy of this?



    • As a charity, your university is obliged to publish its last 5 years of accounts on its website – search for “financial statements”.
      I’m not sure if that strategy you mention was ever written down, but I probably pointed to the JNCHES Guide to reading university finances and getting together with colleagues to work out the situation. To paraphrase Guevara, in struggles you need information (ammunition) above all else and you need to be able to rebut management claims and impositions by offering alternative interpretations, plans and strategies. Where SMT’s are least confident is in their financial stewardship.

      • Marcais O’Conghaile permalink

        Thank you very much.

        I think it was this guide that you referenced.

        We are getting a group together to gather that information and develop a strategy.

        The unraveling of management’s position over pensions when exposed to basic scrutiny illustrates your last point perfectly.

        Thank you for your help.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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