Student Safety Net
Coronavirus has hit thousands of students in the pocket. We have long known that student maintenance support is inadequate, and the government has failed to address the various cost of living crises for students in everything from housing to transport to course costs. Students have long been expected to rely on income from employment, family support and commercial debt to pay their way through education. For many, Coronavirus has meant that the first two of these income streams are in jeopardy and no student should be forced to rely on exploitative debt in order to get by. We urgently need a package of financial support to stop students and apprentices falling into poverty and out of education.
For those leaving education this year, the world also looks bleak. The economic fallout will be immense and employment prospects are poor. Young people leaving education during a recession are more likely to be unemployed or in lower paid jobs, and this is likely to continue with more than a quarter of businesses reducing the number of graduates they employ this year. Studies have shown that the impact of recessions on graduate employment can last for two decades.
We need a student safety net. All students currently in education, and continuing, should have access to a national hardship fund – including international students. We welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of a £5 million package of support for students facing hardship. NUS Scotland is calling for this to be made easily accessible to all students – including international students. We are also calling for student demand to be monitored, so that more funding can be provided, if necessary.
All students leaving education this year should also see support from the government. Today’s education leavers will need to adapt to the new economy. They should be supported by a grant to ensure they can take up additional training and develop their skills when trying to find work.
NUS Scotland agrees the First Minster’s of Scotland’s statement that the case for a Universal Basic Income has been “strengthened immeasurably” by the COVID-19 outbreak and its fall out, and is calling for the Scottish and UK governments develop proposals for the introduction of a Universal Basic Income.
Re-do, Reimburse, Write Off
The disruption to education that the Coronavirus pandemic has caused is significant. Face-to-face teaching and assessment have had to be hurriedly moved online, placement and other practical activity has had to be cancelled, students have lacked access to key resources and spaces, disabled students have less access to essential support and adjustments and students and staff have been struggling with other demands on their finances, welfare and wider lives in this time of crisis. The impact of this disruption will not be felt equally, with those on placements and disabled students feeling the impact particularly severely.
All students, at all levels of education, should have the opportunity to retake this year of their qualifications, at no additional cost, while receiving full maintenance support. For fee-paying students who do not wish to take this up, then the government must commit to writing off this year of their debt, reimbursing this year of their fees.