Nearly £900 million of student loans were sold off today as part of a Government drive to raise money to balance the nation's books.
The mortgage-style loans, which were taken out by students who began courses between 1990 and 1998, have been sold to a debt management consortium for £160 million.
Universities Minister David Willetts said the move represents "good value for money", and would enable the Student Loans Company to concentrate on administering more recent loans.
NUS president Toni Pearce said it was "extremely concerning" that the public would be subsidising a private company to make a profit from public debt.
One of the unions supporting university staff in their second strike over pay next month has said "enough is enough".
Michael MacNeil, UCU's head of higher education, said: "Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay and have made it clear that enough is enough.
"We remain committed to trying to resolve this dispute and the employers now have until 3 December to sit down and positively engage with the unions.
"If they don't, then our members and those from our sister unions will be out on strike again, as well as continuing to work to contract."
University academics and support staff will stage a second strike over pay in December, with unions claiming staff are receiving pay cuts in real terms.
UCU, Unison and Unite, all of which took part in a one-day walkout on October 31, will be joined by Scottish education union EIS on December 3.
The dispute centres on a 1% pay rise offered to university staff - including lecturers, technicians and administration workers - which the unions insist means there has been a 13% pay cut in real terms since October 2008.
But the Universities and Colleges Employers Association has said that, on top of the 1% general pay rise, many university staff get other contributions which will increase pay by 3% overall.
University academics and support staff are to stage a second national one-day strike on Tuesday December 3 in an ongoing row over pay, four unions have announced.
The number of top A-level grades fell for the second year in a row as students across the country found out their results today.Read the full story ›
Dom Anderson, Vice President of the National Union of Students, said students were reaping the benefits of going to university despite average debts of £26,000 and reports of student "poverty".
"It's completely worth it. University is a life-changing thing," Anderson told ITV News as many students found out today whether they had gained university places.
The chief executive of Ucas said students who applied late or got lower A-level grades than expected could still choose from a large selection of courses.
Mary Curnock Cook said:
We have nearly 30,000 courses which are advertising vacancies in clearing.
A lot of those will only be for people who have the very highest grades because the Government arrangements for funding mean that universities aren't limited as to how many of those they can recruit.
The reality is that there are vacancies across all sorts of courses and institutions.
So anybody who is applying late after they got their results or who didn't quite get what they wanted today, there are loads of opportunities for them to find out about what is available through our website.
Nansi Ellis, head of education policy at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said after A-level results were revealed today:
We are worried about the Government's plans for new look A-levels.
We hope the Government rethinks its plans to return to a system of A-levels that only benefited an elite group of students who did well with an intensive regime culminating in one set of final course exams.
We think the current system, with AS-levels as the first half of an A-level, is better for the vast majority of students.
Triplets at the St Simon Stock Catholic School in Maidstone say their A-level results have been a 'nice surprise'. Alexandra, Orla and Eliza will all be starting University in September.
Britain's biggest teachers' union said Government education reforms will harm the prospects of disadvantaged students in the future.
After A-level results were revealed today, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:
Today’s results demonstrate the continued high achievement of students and the hard work of their teachers.
It is likely that in future years, as a result of the decoupling of AS-Levels from A-Levels as well as end to modularity, fewer disadvantaged students will continue in education.
A-Levels are just one qualification in an overly complicated 14-19 education landscape, where there is a lack of parity of esteem between different types of qualification.
If A-Levels are the ‘gold standard’, then let us make our way towards a system in which vocational qualifications are afforded equal respect.