Bursaries for students from the lowest income families performance: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

You asked for any information (eg. figures or civil servant briefings) on the Scottish Government's performance regarding its pledge to "invest £16 million on the next financial year to expand and increase bursaries for students from the lowest income families.".


The Scottish Government responded to the independently chaired Student Support Review in June 2018 with commitments for improvements across FE and HE. This included, in 2018/19, investment of over £5 million to support an increase in the care-experience bursary to £8,100 per year for students across Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). In 2019/20, we will increase bursaries for students from the lowest income families across FE and HE; deliver a guaranteed bursary for eligible students in FE and increase the HE bursary income threshold to support access.

As per the Scottish Government's response, the £16m invested to increase bursaries for the lowest income families was introduced at the beginning of the current Academic Year (AY), which means we do not as yet have a record of the number of students this has impacted on, however the combined improvements to bursaries are expected to benefit around 31,000 students, as set out in Ms Somerville's Ministerial response to the Review. The full text of Ms Somerville's Ministerial response to Parliament can be found here - https://www.gov.scot/publications/student-support-review-ministerial-statement/

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) and Scottish Funding Council (SFC) collect and hold these figures for HE and FE respectively.

SAAS routinely publish figures containing HE student support statistics, however the publication which will contain the uptake of bursaries for AY 2019/20 will not be published until Autumn 2020. If you wish to contact SAAS regarding this, you may do so through their website, link provided - https://www.edocs.saas.gov.uk/contactUs/go.jsp

SFC's data showing the uptake of bursaries for AY 2019/20 will be availiable around January 2021. These are not routinely published in the same manner as SAAS publications, however SFC will be able to provide with these details. If you would like to get in touch with SFC, I have provided a link to their contact details on their website  -  http://www.sfc.ac.uk/about-sfc/contact-us/contact-us.aspx

More information on the Student Support Review and the Scottish Government's response is available at Annex A.

Annex A

Background (October 2016 – November 2017)

SG commissioned an independent review of further (FE) and higher education (HE) student support (the SSR), in October 2016, following Manifesto and Programme for Government commitments.

The Review was independently chaired by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO Virgin Money and Review Group membership included; NUS Scotland, Colleges Scotland, Young Scot, UNISON, Universities Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group, Money Advice Scotland, Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) and a former Headteacher and current student.

The SSR published on 20th November 2017.  The main recommendations  included;

  1. A social contract model for FE/HE at £8,100 made up of bursaries and loans;

  2. Increased FE bursaries immediately at a cost of £16m;

  3. Aspiration that 50% of £8,100 should be bursary (FE/HE) costing an extra £123m;

  4. Introduction of loans in FE for first time which would be written off for those who progress from FE to HE;

  5. FE national entitlement to replace current college discretionary funding;

  6. ‘Special Support’ system for students claiming social security benefits;

  7. Improvements to HE loans repayment term (35-30 years) and increase to repayment threshold (to £22,000).

SG Response (June 2018)

On 9th June, the First Minister (FM) announced that the £5.2m additional funding committed for SSR in 2018/19 Budget would increase FE/HE care-experience bursaries to £8,100. (From current levels of £7,625 in HE and £4,185 in  FE).

FM also committed additional £16m per year from 2019/20 to improve FE/HE bursaries (details below) bringing total increased investment for student support to over £21m per year by the end of this Parliamentary   term.

FM committed to raise the HE student loan repayment threshold to £25,000 from 2021 and reduce repayment  term from 35  to  30  years  (from  2018).

On 12th June, the Minister for FE/HE made a statement outlining in 2019/20;

  1. The lowest HE bursary income threshold will rise from £19,000 to £21,000;

  2. HE bursary for young students to rise from £1,875 to £2,000 per year;

  3. HE bursary for independent students to rise from £875 to £1,000 per year;

  4. FE bursary to rise from £4,185 to £4,500 per year;

  5. FE ‘guarantee’ system to be introduced to ensure payment of FE bursary (£97 per week) to eligible 18/19 year old’s rather than the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) £30 per week.

Ministers said that these announcements were a first step towards realising the ambitions of the ‘social contract model’ (£8,100) across FE/HE.

We are continuing to progress a number of recommendations made by the Review which require further work. These include the development of a Financial Information & Guidance portal, which will provide centralised financial and funding information and guidance across both Further and Higher education for the first time and, a review of student support for Disabled Students.

About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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