NUS Scotland has completed its largest ever research into the student support system in Scotland. The Still in the Red report surveyed over 7400 students from across all backgrounds and types of study.
The report, which can be downloaded here, comes 10 years after the last major reform of student funding following the Cubie Report. The research found levels of student hardship in Scotland to be reaching extreme proportions:
- 61% of students worry frequently or all of the time about finances
- 62% said that not receiving enough money was having a negative impact on their studies
- 50% had been forced to access commercial credit (credit cards and the like) to get by
- 68% were working more than the Cubie-recommended 10 hours per week with 47% of these said that combining work with study was having a negative impact on their studies
- 36% considered dropping out due to financial worries, with 89% of these saying “not having enough financial support” was a key reason for considering this
With over 600,000 students studying at colleges and universities in Scotland there are fears that hundreds of thousands of students are simply not getting the financial help they need to get by.
Liam Burns, NUS Scotland President, said: "Education in Scotland is not free and it’s certainly not fair. Yes, some of our students rightly study without tuition fees hanging above their heads. But let's not forgot that Scottish students live with some of the lowest levels of financial help in the UK. They are being pushed into poverty simply because they want an education.
"Our report has exposed how our broken financial system for students hits the poorest hardest. Scottish university students receive the lowest support compared to the rest of the UK and college students can't even be sure they'll receive enough to pay the rent from month to month.
"In a post-recession Scotland students increasingly can't find part-time work to make ends meet, and where they do the vast majority are working far longer than any lecturer would condone. They are taking on damaging amounts of commercial debt, relying on the first-come, first-served postcode lottery that is discretionary childcare and hardship funds and left high and dry during the summer. Not even EMAs are safe anymore. That is the reality for many of our students, and it is a reality certainly not based on 'free' education.
"Improving student support is not just a principled imperative, but a financial one as well. The fact that one in every three students think about dropping out represents a huge waste of public money. We’ve seen this year that there are simply not enough places for people hoping to study, but this report shows that even those lucky enough to get a place are not getting the financial help they need to become the high quality graduates the public purse is investing in, if they graduate at all."
Student hardship is at crisis levels
Burns continued: "The Still in the Red report categorically shows that the student support system is broken and student hardship is at crisis levels. Studying should be based on ability to learn, not the ability to pay. Without fundamental and urgent reform of student support, explicitly increasing the amount students receive, this will never be the case. In the run up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections, politicians have to be clear in their commitment to students. If they're not then we'll reciprocate at the ballot box."
He added: "When you consider the invisible students, the ones who never even made it to filling in an application form, then these findings are all the more worrying. It’s no wonder that Scotland has the lowest level of students from disadvantaged communities and state schools entering higher education in the UK. This is a huge waste of talent which Scotland can simply no longer afford."