The main focus of the meeting was the changes being introduced for the both the current and 2010 admissions cycles. SLC have made significant improvements in their service delivery and are looking to continually improve. The intention was that the new service, Student Finance England, would be launched in October but an announcement from the Secretary for State for DUIS required adjustments to both the regulations and the IT systems underpinning them. The launch is now scheduled for February 2009. It was clear that the Company had the applicant and sponsors at the heart of their thinking. It was pleasing to see a joined up approach to a service where links were being established with other governmental services to reduce the amount of data that needed to be entered. There are already links in place with UCAS; direct links to the Passport Office and Inland Revenue are also planned. The systems improvements have been backed up with both process improvements (for example returning students will no longer have to reapply but just reaffirm their details) and clearer documentation to assist applicants. A new contact centre at Darlington has also been established. The improvements were confirmed by speaking to a number of the delegates whose children who had gone through the process; all agreed that there had been a significant improvement.
The same level of improvement has yet to be delivered to HEIs. However, the SLC acknowledged that there have been a number of problems with interfaces between institutions and their systems and are seeking to make improvements. Relationships with software suppliers were described as patchy and it seems from talking to institutional representatives that this is reflected in the timeliness of delivery of the required changes to software. So there is still some way to go before all the SLC’s customers feel the benefit of the new culture.