Student financial support in Scotland: independent review

Recommendations for improving the higher and further education student support system.

The New Social Contract for Students: Q&A

Q Will it apply in colleges and universities?

A Yes, we propose to create parity across both systems.

Q Will it apply to all students?

A It should apply to all Scottish domiciled students (i.e. those who permanently live in Scotland).

Q How does it apply to part-time students?

A The improvements in systems and communications will help part-time students. We recommend the Scottish Government looks at how the key principles of this Review can be implemented for part-time students.

Q Why the Scottish Government Living Wage?

A It is calculated by the Scottish Government and represents a wage “which people need to live”.

Q Will there be attendance criteria?

A The current 100% attendance criteria in colleges creates hardship for some students. We recommend it is replaced with flexible and fair attendance criteria. National guidance should be introduced which is both fair and flexible and consistent across further and higher education.

Q How does it apply to students on benefits?

A We recommend a new benefits approach to complement the New Social Contract. We propose that Scotland develops a new special support payment for these students, similar to that already adopted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will ensure that no student will be worse off from taking a positive decision to enter further or higher education.

Q Who will administer the system?

A More consistency in the delivery of student support is needed to support parity in further and higher education. We recommend a move to a common systems approach to deliver financial support, backed by local face-to-face support.

Q What happens to local face-to-face support?

A This will be maintained and extended over both further and higher education students to provide them with pastoral as well as financial guidance and administrative support.

Q How would it be paid?

A Students will be given choice on timings of payments (within a set of pre-defined parameters tailored to student needs).

Q What happens to the Education Maintenance Allowance ( EMA)?

A The use of EMA should be more consistent across colleges to promote fairness and parity. We recommend that further work is undertaken to review EMA, given the complex interaction with benefits.

Q What happens to other discretionary funds?

A In addition to their core student support, students will continue to be eligible for discretionary funds, which are administered locally based on clear national guidelines.

Q How do the recommendations change student loans and is debt written off?

A The repayment terms of loans will be changed such that only those who enter paid employment with an income of over £22,000 will start to repay loans (the current threshold in Scotland is £17,775) and consideration should be given to increasing this to £25,000. These will be written off after 30 years (currently 35 years). Additionally, those students who progress from further education into higher education will have any student debt which they accrued in further education written off.

Q How does it apply for students doing existing four year degrees over three years?

A These individuals can continue to be part of the New Social Contact, with funding adjusted to ensure that funding is aligned with their course.

Q What about Sharia compliant student loans?

A As part of a Westminster initiative the UK Government in developing a Sharia-compliant alternative finance for students. This was raised during our evidence gathering and should be monitored by the Scottish Government.


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