Many organisations and groups have used the lead up to this year’s Scottish Budget being published to highlight the specific issues they would like to see addressed.
NUS Scotland have set out their keys issues through a campaign they call ‘Budget for Better’ and they say the current student support system is broken.
You can see more about the campaign at: https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/budgetforbetter
NUS Scotland set out three areas that they want to see addressed which are below. On the question of bursaries the point is well made that the poorest students are ending up with the highest levels of debt. An increased bursary with increased targeted support for those less well-off is something that is long overdue.
There is also a call for a better deal for graduates and I have to confess I had not realised that the level of earnings where students begin to pay back the loans they have got is much lower in Scotland that the rest of the UK. In Scotland the student will begin to pay back the loan when they earn over £17,775 whilst in England and Wales it is £25,000. It does not seem an unreasonable request to address this.
And, third NUS Scotland is calling for a universal level of counselling provision and mental health support for all Scotland’s colleges and universities. Again, who would disagree.
I am supporting NUS Scotland to campaign for action on these three areas.
NUS Scotland Campaign
Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, has said that education is the number one priority for the Scottish Government. NUS Scotland is asking the Scottish Government to make this a reality by investing in better support for Scotland’s students. We’re calling for:
Budget for Increased Bursaries
The current student support system is broken. The poorest students in higher education are forced to take the greatest debt, while further education students have no guarantees that they’ll be entitled to any financial support. NUS Scotland is calling for serious new investment in bursary support for both further and higher education students – so that they are supported to succeed wherever they study.
Budget for a Better Deal for Graduates
Students taking out loans in Scotland get a raw deal. Currently, students start repaying loans once they earn over £17,775. This threshold is substantially lower than in England and Wales, where a graduate needs to earn above £25,000 before paying back their loan. NUS Scotland is calling for a better deal for Scotland’s graduates – starting with an immediate increase to the loan repayment threshold.
Budget for Mental Health Support
Drastically different levels of mental health support are available to students based on where they study with under provision of services being a particular problem at colleges. We are calling for the Scottish Government to dedicate new, ring fenced funding to establish a universal level of counselling provision and mental health support at all of Scotland’s colleges and universities.