Skip to main content

Scottish Government Statement on Student Support: Good in Parts.

The announcement today is broadly welcome as a step in the right direction.

But the ‘sting in the tail’ is that the changes will only kick in from 2019/2020.

The Scottish Government finally responded to the independent report for the Scottish Government: “A New Social Contract for Students - Fairness, Parity and Clarity” [1] that was delivered to them in November of last year.  Since then, the Scottish Government has come under increasing pressure to produce a response.

This afternoon, Shirley-Anne Sommerville, Scotland Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science finally presented a statement on ‘Student support’ to the Scottish Parliament. This was scheduled in at a late stage.

The full statement is here (15 minutes):

TEFS welcomed the independent report “A New Social Contract for Students - Fairness, Parity and Clarity” back in 2017 as a step in the right direction [2]. This is because it set out the basic needs of an individual student. That being at least £8,100 per year. It also made no distinction with regard to support for the individual between Higher and Further Education.

The statement today at least goes some way to acknowledging the recommendations. Increasing the minimum household income for bursary support is long overdue and will help many.  The full support for students with a care background is also welcome. But it is still likely to be the case that many of these people will never reach a university. It would be interesting to see some details of the overall cost it is expected to be.

The recommendation of the report that those in receipt of benefits should not lose out if transferring to full time education was kicked into the long grass and will be subject to further review.

The Minister stressed indicated that £8,100 per year that would be offered – as a bursary to students from a care background and a mixture of bursary and loan for others – on the basis of the living wage in Scotland.  The review last year calculated this on the basis of £8.45 per hour that was the figure in October 2017. Now it is £8.75 per hour and it seems that the Minister failed to recalculate.   There is an assumption in the original report that students will work up to 10 hours per week to make up a deficit. This was not indicated today but if the support remains static then only the number of hours worked can increase from 10 hours.

This might give some the impression that this statement was rushed out with reluctance. Questions that reminded them that the situation was still worse than when they formed the government stung somewhat.

The ‘sting in the tail’ is that the changes will only kick in from 2019/2020.

This is very disappointing and it leaves room for backsliding next year.  It is the case that many students need more help now.  Indeed, it might not be too late for some students to contact their university to seek to defer their entry to next year to take advantage of a better situation then.  I hope those that do this are not disappointed ultimately.

Mike Larkin, retired from Queen's University Belfast after 37 years  teaching Microbiology, Biochemistry and Genetics.


[1] The independent report for the Scottish Government: “A New Social Contract for Students - Fairness, Parity and Clarity”

[2] TEFS Blog Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Can Scotland afford to be brave with student support and fees?


Popular posts from this blog

Qfqual builds a concrete wall: UPDATED

UPDATE 8th August 2020
Things are moving fast today with severe criticism mounting about Ofqual and SQA, and urgent action is needed. TEFS has laid out ten points that should be considered to reverse out of the crumbling mess. Fairness should replace 'maintaining standards' as the primary objective. The government must cease trying to defend a system that acts as a barrier to the less advantaged.
Since posting yesterday, things have been moving fast. Today the Guardian put the examinations issue in large print on its front page with ‘Nearly 40% of A-level result predictions to be downgraded in England’. This conclusion came about after some great detective work by former medical statistician, Huy Duong, who analysed the data available and reconciled this with the Ofqual announcement that there could have been a 12% inflation in higher grades. It seems that Ofqual have been caught red handed and "Duong’s findings were privately confirmed to the Guardian by exam officials”…

Impact of Coronavirus measures on the working student: The nudge that breaks the camel’s back

The measures taken today by the UK government mean that many small businesses will be forced to close and lay off their workers. With people voluntarily staying away from bars, restaurants and clubs, the impact will be profound. The government will be judged by how it supports people most affected and this will be their legacy. Since the majority employ students as part-time workers, it seems they will be hit especially hard. Add to this the loss of part-time work within universities rapidly shutting down many operations, and the effect will be catastrophic for those in most need. Even PhD students robbed of their pay from casual teaching that they rely upon will be affected. TEFS now calls upon universities and government to step in to help those affected. Emergency hardship funds should be urgently deployed. Having to drop out or fail courses because of lack of support is not an option. Loss of funding and rent arrears will be the ‘straws that break the camel’s back’. The measure of…

Bring back Augar and put students first to offer hope: UPDATE Augar speaks out

UPDATE: Augar Speaks out
Today, Friday 8th May 2020, Philip Augar broke cover and commented on the financial crisis in our universities in the Financial Times. With 'The time is ripe to reform UK university finance' he acknowledged that "Covid-19-related disruption may now mean that such a fee cut would be too destabilising".  He is looking to a new post-COVID-19 world and he must be listened to. The likelihood of the government's response to his report last year diverging far from its recommendations looms.
Augar has offered alternative options for funding Universities in his article for the Financial Times today (8th May 2020). His input is welcome at this time and the government should be bringing him into the fold again. TEFS has argued for a comprehensive review of university finances that goes well beyond simply looking at students and fees with:
"Therefore, a working group involving students (such as NUS), staff (such as UCU) university managements (such…