Belfast Telegraph

TV star Anthony Miller in student loans blow

Law graduate left in lurch after being denied grant for further study in loans 'mix-up'

By Staff Reporter

A former model, television personality and wedding planner who went on to become one of the UK's top law graduates has had his ambitions thrown into limbo by the Student Loans Company (SLC).

Antrim-born Anthony Miller, who often appears on Stephen Nolan's TV and radio shows, is one of 31 Northern Irish victims of a blunder by the company.

After initially being told they had been successful in their applications for loans to fund their postgraduate courses in England, the SLC said it had made a mistake and withdrew the offers.

The Masters students began their courses in September - but now the SLC has said the £10,000 they received was a mistake.

It has left Anthony - who starred in the BBC1 Northern Ireland Radio Face TV series - and the 30 others facing an uncertain future.

The 38-year-old graduated from Staffordshire University with a first class degree with honours in July and was set for a bright future as a lawyer, until he received the devastating news that Student Finance England, on behalf of the SLC, had done a U-turn.

The students from Northern Ireland had completed degrees in England and believed they were eligible for postgraduate funding there.

But after starting their courses, the SLC informed the students that the money was being withdrawn as they had moved to England to study and weren't normally resident there.

The SLC said the students from Northern Ireland did not "meet the residency requirements to be eligible for a postgraduate loan" and blamed "human error in the interpretation of the regulations when processing" the loan applications.

Anthony has said he has been left devastated and has been left with no option but to withdraw from the Masters degree in Legal Practice, a qualification he needs in order to pursue a career in law.

"I had enrolled on my course and my studies were going really well, then out of nowhere came the news that my funding had been withdrawn," he said.

"There was some uncertainty as to what the regulations would be and it was quite late in the summer before the Student Loans Company was prepared to receive applications.

"I spoke with various agents on a number of occasions and I was advised that I had met the requirements"

Anthony sent his application to the SLC and said he was told that he had been approved by a company advisor as well as by their automated system.

"I spoke with one of their agents who advised me that my funds would be paid within a couple of weeks as it was taking some time to process the applications and when I rang the Student Loans Company the automated answering system advised that my application had been approved," he said.

When the news came that Anthony had in fact been declined, based on the residency requirements, he immediately contacted the SLC.

He said he was advised that it may have been an error and should appeal, which he did.

SLC chief Steve Lamey sent Anthony a letter 15 days later which dealt the devastating blow that his appeal had not been upheld.

The letter stated: "Our records show that you were previously awarded funding by the devolved authority, Student Finance Northern Ireland for an undergraduate course in England".

"You have now completed that course and are progressing onto a postgraduate Master's degree course in England".

"When a student transitions immediately from one course to another it is considered a continuous study period and their residence remains their home region."

Anthony said he is currently seeking legal advice about what do next, and may take a case against the SLC.

Born in the Stiles estate in Antrim, he left St Joseph's Primary School having failed the 11-plus and then was expelled from St Malachy's High School before his GCSEs.

He finished school with no qualifications but had a modelling contract from the age of 15.

He moved to London at the age of 25 and set up a wedding planning service with his friend Richard Jones under the title Ant and Dic. The couple were among the first to plan the civil partnership celebrations of gay couples, a niche that got them featured on Wedding TV on Sky.

In 2011, he decided he wanted to become a lawyer and ended up one of the top law graduates in England.

Belfast Telegraph

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