Student support must see short-term investment, and long-term reform

Tuesday 25-10-2016 - 12:48

•    New figures show bursaries for poorest students are going up, though still below previous highs, but debt distribution remains skewed
•    Report comes on the same day the Scottish Government announces Jayne-Anne Gadhia will Chair a review into student support

Tuesday 25 October

The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) has today released a new statistical report, ‘Higher Education Student Support in Scotland’ (see notes). This is an annual report, detailing a range of statistics and information around the numbers of students receiving support in Scotland, and the amounts they receive. Key findings from the 2015/16 report include: 

•         The average amount of support per student in 2015/16 was £5,720, an increase of 2.0% (up from £5,610). 
•         Among students from the lowest income households, the average amount of any support (loan and bursary) increased to £7,870 (up from £7,730). The average amount of bursary support for these students also increased (to £1,700, up from £1,570) – but this remains below previous highs. 
•         Across all household income groups there was a further increase in the average amount of loan support – but this remains highest for students from the poorest households. 

The publication comes on the same day the Scottish Government announced the appointment of Jayne-Anne Gadhia to chair the forthcoming review of student support. NUS Scotland has welcomed the creation of the review, and the appointment of Jayne-Anne. At the same time, NUS Scotland is calling for the Scottish Government to ensure investment is made through the Scottish budget, while the long-term work of the review is ongoing, to ensure we don’t neglect students studying here and now.  

Commenting, Vonnie Sandlan, President of NUS Scotland, said: 
“These figures show that we’re making progress on the support available to some students, but reiterate the need for fundamental reform of the whole system. Bursary support for the most in-need students is going in the right direction, but remains below previous record levels, while debt levels remain higher still. While it’s positive to see the bursaries for the poorest students going up – reflecting increases we’ve secured in recent years – the need for continued increases is clear.  

“It’s absolutely right that we’ve maintained free education in Scotland, but that can’t just be about the price tag. It must be about ensuring students can access education, but are also supported to stay there and reach their full potential. For all our work on fair access, Scotland persists with the highest dropout rates in the UK, and improved support has a huge role to play in changing that. 

“That’s why the review of student support is so important. If we were starting from scratch, we shouldn’t aspire to the system we have now. It leaves too many students to fall through the gaps, and can even serve to undermine our efforts on fair access. We’re delighted to see the appointment of Jayne-Anne, bringing that review a step closer. Jayne-Anne brings with her a wealth of knowledge and outside experience, including her role on the International Council of Education Advisers. We look forward to working with her to deliver a system that works for all students.  

“At the same time, however, we cannot forget about students here and now. We’ve seen welcome, if incremental, progress in recent years to get additional money for both further and higher education bursaries, and that must continue. As we look ahead to the draft budget later this year, NUS Scotland will be continuing the campaign for that investment in the immediate future, while ensuring we grasp the opportunity of the review to secure long-term reform for future students.”

For more information, contact: Philip Whyte, Policy and Public Affairs Manager

1.    Higher Education Student Support in Scotland publication can be found here,
2.    More details on the appointment of Jayne-Anne Gadhia can be found here, 


NUS Scotland

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student support,Scottish Government,press release,Scotland

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