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Student Support (Higher Education)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th September 2019.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

3. To ask the Scottish Government how it supports students in higher education. (S5O-03535)

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government’s commitment to free tuition ensures that full-time Scotland-domiciled students studying for their first undergraduate degree at publicly funded higher education institutions in our country do not have to pay fees. That means that they do not incur additional debt of up to £27,000. We also provide a minimum income guarantee of £7,750 per year for students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds through a combination of bursaries and loans. In 2018-19, we increased the care-experienced bursary to £8,100 per year.

Further to that, following recommendations made by the student support review, we will, during the 2019-20 academic year, provide comprehensive online information on further and higher education student finance, among other things. We have also increased the student loan repayment threshold to £25,000 per year from 2021, ensuring that students are supported not only during their studies but after they graduate. We are working on a range of other measures as well, but that gives a flavour.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

On 20 March, Parliament voted to implement the recommendations of the independent review of student support—crucially, a minimum student income. Students throughout Scotland have had enough of delay on the matter, so I ask the minister when we can expect the plans for implementation to be introduced and when every student in Scotland will benefit from a minimum income guarantee.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I remember that debate well. As James Kelly will recall, the Scottish Government supported the principle of a minimum income guarantee for students. As I indicated in my previous answer, we have already started to implement many of the recommendations of the independent review of student support, including the £8,100 care-experienced bursary. Given the overall cost of implementing all the measures in the student review, it will take some time and expense to do that. We will work our way through as we can, as budgets become available and as we calculate the cost of each individual measure.

Scotland gives a very good package of support to our students in this country compared with the packages of support that are available in the rest of the United Kingdom, not just in respect of free education, but in respect of bursaries for independent students who have independent means and do not have family support, and for students from poorer family backgrounds. Our support compares very favourably on a range of measures with what is being delivered elsewhere in the UK.