Support for 178,180 students tops £1 billion

Non-repayable bursaries and grants rise 13.4%.

Scottish Government funding for students in higher education rose to more than £1 billion in the last academic year (2019-20), according to figures from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

Within that total, awards of non-repayable bursaries and grants for full-time students rose 13.4 per cent.

The latest numbers show 148,570 full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students, 20,030 part-time students and 9,580 nursing and midwifery students (a total of 178,180) were supported through SAAS in the form of a bursary, grant, fees or loan. The total support provided increased by 2.8% from £981.6 million in 2018-19 to £1.009 billion in 2019-20.

Average support per full-time student was £6,140 – an increase from £6,010 in the previous session – with the overall amount provided in non-repayable bursaries and grants increasing from £80.2 million in 2018-2019 to £90.9 million last year.

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said:

“For the total university student support number to top £1 billion for the first time is a really significant milestone - news which is all the more welcome, given the uncertain times in which we are living because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“To see that 13.4% rise in what is non-repayable money being given to students should prove a welcome boost to many. In recent months, of course, the Scottish Government has also been reacting to the financial challenges facing the sector because of COVID-19, including committing to fully funding additional places required as a result of SQA results being regraded.

“In July, we announced our Further and Higher Education Sustainability Plan, which highlights many steps we have taken to support higher education, including the development of an International Student Action Plan, hardship support of £5 million across FE and HE student support and early access to £11.4 million of HE Discretionary Funds.”


The figures released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

The National Statistics Publication release can be read here

The full statistical publication and background documentation is available at:

This publication contains the main statistical findings on students who received financial support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) in the 2019-2020 academic session. SAAS provide support to Scottish domiciled Higher Education students studying throughout the United Kingdom (UK), and to some outside the UK, as well as European Union (EU) students studying in Scotland. These courses are at Higher National Certificate (HNC) level and above. These can be taken either at college or at university, and include those studying for certain postgraduate qualifications.

Financial support covers non-repayable bursaries and grants paid to students, the payment of tuition fees or provision of fee loans, and the authorisation for living cost loans. The Student Loans Company (SLC) are responsible for administering the loans.

Information on all aspects of student support provided by SAAS can be found at:

The SLC website provides more information on student loans for Higher Education:

Information on student finance for both further and higher education students can be found at:

Official statistics are produced in accordance with professional standards  – more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland can be accessed at:

*Updated 26/08/20 - Bursaries and grants increased by 13.4%. The original news release had this as 10.8%.*


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