Having recently established a new Customer Vision, the UK non-profit Student Loans Company has made a further step in its strive for customer-centric experience, founding the Student Finance Customer Panel. The Student Loans Company (SLC) is owned by the UK’s Department of Education as well as the governments of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, along with the Student Finance of each. SLC provides loans to college and university students. The newly-established Customer Panel will work with user research and testing, and with the target audience of current and prospective students and alumni in mind.
The UK student loans system is based on government loans for tuition and maintenance costs, which are assessed individually for each student depending on their needs. Repayment starts automatically by employers, after the student starts earning more than a certain amount a year (which differs in England and Wales), but the minimum interest starts accumulating from the time the money is received and goes up the more you earn. Thirty years after the student graduates, the loan will be annulled, regardless of how much was or was not paid off. The system in Scotland and Northern Ireland is different, with tuition being either free or capped.
The Panel assembled virtually for the first time in April and includes Student Finance customers all over the UK, with the addition of a UX team. Recruitment of the 16 members began in early 2021, with the intention of gathering a diverse group to represent the target audience.
Moving forward, the aim will be to assess opinions about the way customers interact with such services as SLC and their expectations – working hours, response times, enquiry channels, etc. The Customer Panel will meet every annual quarter at the minimum, with members chosen for one year, with an option to extend for an additional year.