Access to education is a fundamental right that should be available to all individuals, regardless of their financial circumstances or religious beliefs. Financial solutions must consider different cultural and ethical factors in a varied nation like the UK.

A student loan is one area where this is especially
pertinent as it is designed by the government to widen access to higher education David Cameron as
Prime Minister in 2013 at the World Islamic Economic Forum in London stated “Never again should a
Muslim in Britain feel unable to go to university because they cannot get a Student Loan—simply
because of their religion.” The Department for Education recently announced its collaboration with
Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC) to develop a Shariah-compliant Alternative Student Finance
(ASF). In this blog post, we delve into the reasons why a Shariah-compliant option is essential for
fostering education and economic growth.

Central to this is the fact that Islam prohibits charging or paying interest (Riba). The fact that some of the companies that offer loans often invest in pornography, gambling, or alcoholic beverage industries also makes them prohibited under Shariah law. By offering a Shariah-compliant Alternative Student Finance (ASF), the government can ensure that all students, regardless of their religious beliefs, have access to an inclusive financial system that respects their values.

Islamic finance is built on principles of ethical behaviour and social responsibility. It emphasizes fair and just economic transactions that benefit society as a whole. By providing a Shariah-compliant ASF, the government would support students in pursuing education without compromising their faith. This initiative not only encourages responsible financial practices but also contributes to a more ethical and equitable financial ecosystem.

Access to education should not be hindered by financial barriers. According to an online survey by the Muslim Census in which nearly 40,000 Muslims in the UK responded, every year, 12,000 students are forced to pay for their own education or forgo it completely due to a lack of funding and ASF. ASF provided by the government would bridge this gap, ensuring that individuals from all walks of life have the opportunity to pursue their educational aspirations and contribute to society’s progress.

Education is not only a catalyst for economic growth, but the pursuit of higher education has also become increasingly important for career prospects and personal growth. The Muslim Census survey revealed that more than 1 in 10 qualified Muslim students do not attend university at all as a direct result of the absence of any financing options other than student loans. By investing in the education of its citizens, a government invests in the future prosperity of the nation. Shariah-compliant ASF supports this growth by enabling a diverse range of students to access quality education, thereby equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to contribute effectively to the workforce and the economy. 

A government’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is reflected in its policies and initiatives. Providing a Shariah-compliant ASF option demonstrates a proactive effort to accommodate the needs of diverse communities within the country. This, in turn, enhances social cohesion by fostering a sense of belonging and respect among various religious and cultural groups.

Although it may be argued that other alternatives to funding education exist like getting scholarships or grants, opting for work-study programmes, crowdfunding, and employer sponsorship. A response to this is that most of these options are not readily available to all. Also, some may be tied to certain conditions which may be difficult to fulfil. 

Having a Shariah-compliant ASF would close a gap for Muslim students who have been at a disadvantage. The UKIFC is proud to be a partner of the Department for Education in creating a Shariah-compliant ASF.

Be a part of creating change and allowing Muslims in the UK to have access to financial products in line with their values by responding to the Call for Evidence by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamic and Ethical Finance (APPGIEF) before the 18th of September, 2023.

APPGIEF Call for Evidence