Student funding in further education

Research into the financial behaviour of further education students in Scotland, exploring demand for and potential impact of student loans amongst this group.

Annex B: Focus Group Session Plan

October 2018

The SQW team will arrive 10/15 minutes before the start of each session to get set up boards / flip charts, post-its, stickers, pens, etc. We will also lay out snacks and drinks, and make sure chairs are set up in a way that is conducive to group discussion.

Table B‑1: Workshop session plan

Task Description Outputs Time for this task (mins)
  • Hello and welcome – few minutes to get settled in
  • On arrival, all attendees given a 1-page information sheet – explaining the background / purpose of the research, how the findings will be used, contact details for follow up, etc. Participants can take this away with them.
  • Equalities proforma – all attendees asked to complete a short proforma to capture data on their equalities characteristics and financial behaviour. Facilitators to provide assurances that all data captured will be confidential and explaining how the data will be used (i.e. to ensure appropriate representation in the study).
Completed equalities forms 5
Formal introduction
  • Overview of background, aims and objectives of research
  • Emphasise opportunity for them to influence / shape policy regarding the financial support available to support FE students in Scotland
  • Workshop rules – respect, confidentiality (might put these on a board to be hung up on the room)
  • Overview of format of the session
  • Confirm informed consent to continue (verbal), for quotes to be used (confidentially) and for pictures to be taken
Verbal consent to continue 5
Task 1: Icebreaker
  • Financial word card game:
    • A collection of cards with financial terms written on them are placed face down in the middle of the table
    • Participants take it in turns to turn over one card from the pile
    • They then have one minute to describe the word to the rest of the group and the others have to guess what it is (like the game articulate)
    • The individual then must place the word on a board that has a grid with two axes – one for how informed they feel about the word (not very informed through to very informed) and one for feelings towards this word (negative through to positive)
    • The wider group then asked to comment on whether they feel the same about the placement of this word.
    • The above steps are repeated until everyone has had a turn.
Words for the cards: Banks, Building Societies, Student Loans, Credit Cards, Overdraft, Payday Loan, Credit Rating, Debt, Savings, Mortgage, Lending, Interest Rates, Cash, ISA, Bursary, Social security
Photograph of the board with all the terms placed Notes of the discussion around each term 15
Task 2: Sources of income / debt and views on these
  • All participants given a set of stickers and asked to indicate on two boards which sources of income / debt they currently have access to. Options will be:
    • Sources of income / financial support: parents / other family members / partner / employment / savings / other
    • Sources of debt: high street bank / building society loans / payday loans / credit cards / store cards / online shopping accounts / overdrafts / mortgages / other
  • Once all the stickers are placed, facilitate group discussion around each covering:
    • What have been the consequences of each source of income / debt accessed – both positive and negative?
    • How informed did you feel to make decisions about access to each source of income / debt? How much choice do you feel you had in relation to each? Did you consider other options? What were the main influencing factors?
    • How have you used each sources of income / debt? For example, to pay for large purchases (such as a house, car), to bring forward some purchases, to manage cash flow or for essential living expenses such as food, travel? To pay for materials required for your college course?
    • How informed do you feel about student support and what is available to you? How could this be improved?
  • To what extent has your income / debt situation impacted on your learner journey? Has it been an influencing factor on decision making? Has it impacted your attainment – in what way?
Understanding of current sources of income / debt, decision-making processes relating to these and the impact of them 15
Task 3: Demand and impact of loans
  • Facilitator to introduce key principles of student loans:
    • A government-supported loan to help you with your studies
    • Total amount available to you would be based on your household income, taking account of any other grants / bursaries that you are entitled to
    • Repayments don't start until you are earning over a certain amount – for HE students, this is currently £18k per year
    • For comparison, if you were on the national minimum wage you would be earning £11k per year and so would not be eligible to pay it back
    • Repayments are automatically deducted from your pay – you don't need to do anything or worry about missing payments
    • If you have not paid off your loan after 35 years, it will be cancelled
    • It does not affect your credit rating
    • The interest rate is much lower than for commercial debt - currently 1.75%
  • If this type of loan was available to you, how likely would you be to take it up? Participants asked to place stickers on a board to indicate their response on a scale from "Not very likely" through to "Very likely".
  • For those who say they would be unlikely to take it up:
    • Why not? Probe for the reasons behind this – for example, would it put at risk other sources of income? Would you be concerned about getting into debt? Would you be worried about not being able to pay it off in future? Are you comfortable with your current income?
    • For those who say they would be likely to take it up:
    • Why? Probe for the reasons behind this – for example, would it improve your living standards? Would it enable you to pay off other debt? Would it enable you to live independently?
    • How would this change your financial behaviour (referencing back to current sources of income)? For example, would you be less likely to access other forms of debt?
    • Would it impact on your education decisions / performance? For example, would you choose to stay in college longer? Would you have more time to concentrate on your studies if you didn't have to work?
Data on likely take up of student loans and reasons behind this Insights into potential impact of introducing student loans on financial behaviour and educational decisions 10
Task 4: Group discussion on recommendations
  • Open Question: What changes could the Scottish Government make to better support FE students financially? This can relate to student loans, access to other types of finance, better information on what is available, etc.
  • Answers to be written on post-it notes
NB: facilitators to encourage participants not to just write "give us more money"
Suggestions on how SG could better support FE students financially 5
Closing off
  • Summing up – key messages from the session
  • Thank you for your engagement and participation
  • Pictures / quotes for the final report (with consent to use these)
  • Ask for verbal feedback on the session – what they liked / did not like
  • Next steps – how we will keep in touch and let them know the outcomes of the research – we will notify our contact in the college and they will pass it on
  • High street voucher for each participant
Pictures Quotes Comments on session 5



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