New £4,500 loan is a boost for students


All university students will be eligible for a new loan of £4,500 per year from 2013 to help towards the cost of their studies, the Scottish government has announced.

The loan, which will be available regardless of income, will open up funds to hundreds of young people from middle class families whose access was previously restricted.

A total of £18,000 will be accessible over a four-year course, which they will have to start repaying once their annual earnings exceed £15,795.

A new minimum income for the poorest students of £7,250 a year has also been guaranteed.

Students from the lowest-income families will get less in grants but their overall income will rise because of more access to loans. The Scottish National Party has also set up a grant to pay for the tuition fees of part-time students on annual income of less than £25,000.

Student leaders and lecturers welcomed the extra support for Scottish students, who already have free tuition fees, unlike their counterparts in England.

Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said: “In the short-term, getting the most amount of money into students’ pockets is the most important thing, ensuring people have enough money to get by and successfully complete their studies.

He continued: “While we accept bursaries will decline a little, this is more than outweighed by increases in the total amount of money available and, overall, these announcements represent the best student support package in the UK.”

Mary Senior, University and College Scottish official, said the announcement was a “real shot in the arm”.

However, John Field, professor of lifelong learning at Stirling University, questioned whether current levels of public funding were sustainable in the long term and whether Scotland should be investing more in vocational training.

In England, by contrast, lack of funding risked driving participation down, he said.

The policy intentions of the Westminster and Holyrood governments were moving rapidly apart “despite the similarities of many of the institutions”, he added.


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