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by Tom Freeman
24 November 2015
Student support for FE ‘not fit for purpose’

Student support for FE ‘not fit for purpose’

Nearly a third of FE students in Scotland are unable to complete their course because of finances, MSPs were told today.

The number of applications for discretionary bursaries has risen in recent years, outstripping available funds.

Giving evidence on student support to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture committee this morning Vonnie Sandlan, president of NUS Scotland, said the system was “not fit for purpose”.

Because each college treats student support differently, she said, “some colleges have run out of money for student support.”

In a written submission Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland said colleges were doing all they can. “The current system of student support needs to be examined to ensure that fairness and transparency is at its heart and everyone can access the funds they need in good time,” she said. 

Sandlan also told MSPs fear of debt was also preventing students from poorer backgrounds contemplating university, with a lower repayment threshold and a longer period before the loan is written off in Scotland than England.

“A fifth of students from poorest background are taking no student loan at all,” she said.

Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for opportunity Iain Gray said it is “perverse” students from poorer backgrounds have to borrow more to complete their studies, and it takes those on lower incomes longer to pay the loans back.

Mary Senior, Scotland officer with the University and College Union said the debate highlighted a need for more public funding into post-16 education in Scotland.

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