Coronavirus (COVID-19): Further Education/Higher Education Student Hardship Task Force


This group was formed in February 2021 and decomissioned in June 2021.

The Student Hardship Taskforce was a short-life group formed to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student hardship and to determine if the mechanisms and measures in place were sufficient to mitigate against student hardship in Further (FE) and Higher Education (HE).

The key focus of the taskforce was to:

  • determine the financial hardship issues that have arisen specifically for students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • collate information on existing good practice and work underway across the sector and where that good practice is being delivered in regional areas, seek to consider if that can be delivered throughout all of Scotland
  • assess the effectiveness of Scottish Government support to students for hardship and discretionary funds delivered through the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), Scottish Funding Council (SFC), universities and colleges
  • present recommendations for rapid solutions to improve the Scottish Government’s support for all FE and HE students in Scotland currently facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • produce short, sharp and focussed updates on taskforce recommendations for Ministers to consider

Key discussion points that were addressed on various taskforce meetings included: FE and HE discretionary funds, support for EU and international students, course completion/extensions and student support for the 2021/2022 academic year. An outcomes paper was produced which is available to view in the documents section of this page.


Scottish Government

  • Roddy Macdonald, Task Force Chair/Head of Higher Education and Science Division (HES)   
  • Jennifer Finn, Student Support Review and Higher Education Student Support (HES)  
  • Steven Paxton, Student Mental Health and Accommodation,  Policy Officer  
  • Cath Henderson, NMAHPs and HCS Education (CNOD)    
  • Michelle Campbell, Acting Head of Medical Education and Training (CNOD)     
  • Anne Wallace, (CNOD)     
  • Susan Pryde, ALS    


  • SAAS Chief Executive    
  • Lauren NcNamara, Deputy SAAS Chief Executive/Director of Strategy and Operations    
  • Nicola Dean, SAAS Head of Policy and Governance 
  • Alan Scott, SAAS Senior Policy Manager 
  • Lorna Caldwell, SAAS Head of Engagement   

Universities Scotland    

  • Aoife Keenan, Policy Officer 

Colleges Scotland 

  • Mark McCahill, Policy Officer    

Scottish Funding Council (SFC)  

  • Fiona Burns, Assistant Director - Outcomes  
  • Gavin Bruce, Assistant Director - Funding
  • Sarah Kirkpatrick    


  • Matt Crilly, President, NUS Scotland  
  • Ali McDade      
  • Liam Furby, Campaigns and Influencing Manager  
  • Nicole Dempster, Press and Public Affairs Consultant    


  • Jaimie-Leigh Gauld, student – Strathclyde University   
  • Andrew Hunt, student – Edinburgh College

Student parent    

  • Clare Hunter, student parent    


  • Pamela Lockhart, NASMA – Scottish Policy Representative/Dundee Uni     
  • Kellie McAlonan, NASMA/UWS    


  • Angela Toal, Welfare Rights Adviser, Student and Benefits Project    

Further Education Student Support Advisory Group (FESSAG)

  • Louise Park, Ayrshire College