Date lodged: 1 November 2016
To ask the Scottish Government further to the report, Higher Education Student Support in Scotland 2015-16, whether replacing grants with loans for higher education students since 2012-13 was carried out with "the aim of protecting free tuition”.
Answered by: Shirley-Anne Somerville 15 November 2016
No. The recently published Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) statistical publication contained an inaccurate statement. We apologise for this inaccuracy and will revise the relevant entry in the report.
The reason for introducing a simplified higher education student support package in academic year 2013-14 was to increase the amount of support available to students and deliver a minimum income guarantee of £7,250 per year for students from the poorest households. We worked with stakeholders, including NUS Scotland, to achieve this, putting more money in the pockets of students to support their living costs during their period of free higher education study. The introduction of the new support package was welcomed at the time by these stakeholders.
The Scottish Government has not replaced grants with loans. Eligible students remain entitled to apply for a mixture of both. This is in contrast to the UK Government, which abolished maintenance grants entirely for new students in England from academic year 2016-17. The Scottish Government increased the maximum bursary for the poorest household to £1,875 last year and, effective from the current academic year, increased the household income threshold for award of the maximum bursary (£1,875) from £17,000 to £19,000.