Publication - Minutes

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Further Education/Higher Education Student Hardship Task Force minutes: 4 May 2021

Published: 15 Jun 2021
Date of meeting: 4 May 2021
Location: Video conference

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 4 May 2021.

15 Jun 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Further Education/Higher Education Student Hardship Task Force minutes: 4 May 2021

Attendees and apologies


  • Higher Education and Science Division, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Colleges, Young Workforce and SFC Sponsorship, Scottish Government
  • Health and Social Care, Scottish Government 
  • Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)
  • Colleges Scotland (CS)
  • Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
  • National Union of Students (NUS)
  • National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA)
  • Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
  • Further Education Student Support Advisory Group (FESSAG)
  • Universities Scotland (US)
  • Student parent 

Items and actions

Support for students to ensure they can complete their studies

SAAS advised they are still awaiting data from colleges and universities in relation to the number of course extensions required to ensure students are able to complete their Higher Education (HE) studies for 2021/2022. It was noted that this information is needed before SAAS can contact the impacted students and arrange the relevant one-off payment.

CS and US advised that they would share the request for information relating to course extensions across their networks to help drive a return in the necessary data.

SFC advised that current intelligence gathered from the Further Education (FE) sector suggests that students should manage to complete their studies within the current timescale. However, colleges have been advised that they have until 3rd June to confirm their position and provide definitive numbers of any course extensions.

2021/2022 AY Discretionary Funds in FE and HE

SAAS indicated that the existing Nursing and Midwifery Discretionary Fund will become a ring-fenced fund within the main 2021/2022 HE Discretionary Fund and there will be a single guidance document for administration purposes.

NASMA welcomed the streamlined process and advocated that a consistent open dialogue with SAAS colleagues allows colleges and universities to provide feedback on the Discretionary Funds guidance. In terms of the current guidance, there was nothing concerning or out of date.

NUS supported the idea of EU and international students having access to Discretionary Funds on a permanent basis.
NASMA advised that universities have found it challenging to confidently assess EU and international students for support from the Winter Covid Fund. It was suggested that a more robust process and long term approach would need to be established to ensure consistency across the sector.

It was noted that some universities have existing alternative measures in place for EU and international students, such as funding from university alumni.

SAAS advised that approximately 5000 EU and international students have received support from the HE Winter Covid Fund, which equates to around 40% of the total students supported. 

In comparison, only 50 students have received support from the FE Winter Covid Fund. This was expected given the significantly lower number of EU/ international students who choose to undertake an FE course.

NASMA raised concerns around those EU and international students who have completed their studies but are unable to travel home due to no flights being available and restrictions in their home country.

It was noted that this would be investigated further by SG colleagues and an update would be provided at the next TF meeting. 

CS suggested that 2021/2022 Academic Year (AY) be deemed as an emergency year as a result of the pandemic meaning that EU and international students would be able to have continued access to Discretionary Funds for the next AY.

NUS welcomed this suggestion and advocated that as long as there are hotel quarantine charges, Discretionary Funds should be made available to EU and international students as this is currently the only support available to them.

US advised that universities would positively welcome a continuation of access to Discretionary Funds for EU and international students however, flexibility of allocation and a consistent longer term approach would need to be established.

NUS suggested that the current support package offered to students is not sufficient if Discretionary Funding is needed. Further consideration could be given to the student support package particularly if students are incapable of securing a level of employment.

Next steps

  • the meeting on 8 June will be the last meeting of the Student Hardship Taskforce and will focus on a summary of the outcomes achieved and recommendations for progressing forward
  • SG officials will provide information on student hardship, support and the work of the Student Hardship Task Force to the newly appointed Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training
  • considerations will be given to the suggestion of 2021/2022 AY being deemed as an emergency year, particularly in relation to the support available to EU and international students