Thursday 15-12-2016 - 16:02
NUS Scotland: Scottish budget must address fair access and fair funding
“Doesn’t go far enough in addressing problems in the current student support system”
“Good to see a recognition of the importance of our colleges, with increased funding – that must deliver increases for FE bursaries”
“We need to prioritise increasing the opportunities available to students from our most disadvantaged backgrounds, and the support available to them”
Commenting on the Scottish Government’s draft budget, Vonnie Sandlan, NUS Scotland President, said:
“It’s clear that students are in desperate need of fairer funding, and this budget must go further in addressing that before it becomes final next year. While it’s really positive to see increased college funding, students there are still left with the uncertainty of whether they’ll receive any financial support. At least some of the additional money must be used to boost the outdated, discretionary system they face. And, while making much needed and welcome improvements to postgraduate support, the draft budget falls short on providing much needed increases in university places to deliver on our ambitions for fair access, and support for those students.
“We cannot overlook the importance of investing in education, and particularly students and young people. Without the necessary financial support, we could see more students dropping out of education, or never making it there in the first place. At the same time, today we saw figures from UCAS that show a persistent and growing gap in the demand for a university place and the availability of one. Without continued investment in fair access, and the resources to deliver that, we risk undoing the recommendations of the Commission on Widening Access, particularly the targets that it set.
“One area of really good news is the increased funding for mental health services, particularly for children and young people. That’s a really positive move, and one that NUS Scotland called for in the run up to the Scottish elections – but the Scottish Government must ensure that the needs of our diverse student population are reflected in the distribution of this budget and the new mental health strategy when it is published.”
“Ultimately, Scotland cannot afford to continue with the status quo in student support. As we approach the final budget vote next year, we’ll be looking to politicians across the Parliament to work to improve the opportunities on offer, not least to those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, and the support they need to access education, stay there and succeed.”
On funding for skills and training, Vonnie Sandlan added:
“While it’s right that much of the funding coming through via the apprenticeship levy simply replaces existing funding, the £221m promised by the UK Government still exceeds the current budget for skills and training, particularly apprenticeships. It was really encouraging that hear the Scottish Government confirm that money would make its way back to skills, training and employability in full, and we look forward to seeing more details on what it will deliver.
“With Modern Apprentice targets being regularly met, exceeded, and increased, it would be a missed opportunity if the levy was simply used to make a binary decision between increasing one type of existing programme or another. Instead, it should be used to provide new and innovative routes into training and work, and address the underlying inequalities and barriers which continue to exist within vocational education.”
Contact Fergus Boden, NUS Scotland Press and Influencing Officer