Response to Supporting a Smarter Scotland consultation on supporting learners in higher education.

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1 036" Glasgow Caledonian University Response to Supporting a Smarter Scotland consultation on supporting learners in higher education. Student funding is a complex policy area. A well structured and well funded support system is, however, an important lever for widening participation and promoting attainment. The Scottish Government's consultation on how to deploy an additional 30M reviews a number of options. The core principle is that student loans are wrong and overly complex and that the objective should be to move from loans to grants. The University has responded to the individual questions, but we should like to summarise our broader thinking on the subject. There are two basic principles that we believe should be fundamental to an effective and fair student funding system: That public funding should be targeted at those in greatest need That the level of funding should be sufficient to allow the individual to study effectively and to achieve their learning goals. Against this background we would favour an outcome that increased the quantum of funding available to individuals from the most deprived backgrounds, and we see this as the most urgent objective. Options contained in the consultation paper do not introduce the step change in the funding level for students from the most deprived backgrounds that would make study a more accessible and attractive option or reduce their dependency on paid work while they study something that compromises chances of success. We would also be concerned at any support mechanism that limited the tertiary education choices of those from deprived backgrounds: this would undermine the equality of opportunity and fairness to which the university sector is committed no less than the Scottish Government. Finally, we believe that the student funding scheme should be kept under close review and will have to be adapted if universities and colleges are to support the Government in meeting the related challenges of demographic and economic change. There will need to be radical rethinking of the support available to the range of independent learners (Le. those who do not have access to significant public support at present) given the downward trends in Scottish schoolleaver numbers together with the requirement for a flexible, adaptive workforce with access to lifelong learning. The funding arrangements for postgraduate students should be a key element in the review of student funding, as it is at this level that much of the adaptive education and training will be provided with greatest efficiency and effectiveness. Option 1 Page 12 What are your views on the proposal the Young Students Bursary? to begin a move to grants by extending This is a logical step to take if the objective is to move to grants. However, consideration should also be given to extending the family/household income threshold as part of this approach to extending young student bursary to more

2 students. Do you feel that the focus of bursary support should continue dependent students? to be on Yes given the total sum of money involved. However, changes in the demography which will drive ever greater emphasis on lifelong learning means that placing too exclusive a focus on dependent students will in future become decreasingly useful.

3 Page 13 What are your views on the extension of bursary support to independent students as part of a transition to grants? Independent students tend to face higher living costs than those with the support of parental income and this will help a decreasing constituency. Page 14 What are your views on the proposal from the ASC to introduce full bursary/grant support for higher education courses in colleges? This proposal raises concerns about equity of access to HE. Such a move would remove options from potential students from lower income backgrounds in particular by reinforcing existing patterns of participation and expectation. At present 18% of students from the least deprived quintile in Scotland attend a college while 30% attend an HEI. Conversely, 44% from the two most deprived quintiles attend college while only 25% attend HEls. Such a move would put pressure on potential student from lower income backgrounds to choose the college route, albeit with the possibility of articulating into university later. While this may be the most suitable learning route for many, regardless of socio-economic background, choosing this route for financial reasons rather than on grounds of aptitude, interest and learning goals is difficult to defend given the impact that it would have on an individual's choice of course and place of study. In particular, what are you thoughts on the potential for this to change the nature of support so that it would be based on what type of institution you were attending rather than your level of study? It is important that students are able to make choices regarding the study route that is best for them based on their aptitudes, interests and learning goals. This is a proposal that seriously undermines equality of learner opportunity. Colleges and universities represent different choices and different experiences. Option 2 What are your views on the NUS proposal to increase the overall support available by increasing the grant support currently available? This proposal deals with the problems that face students while they are undertaking a degree as their basic living costs tend to exceed the minimum income level currently identified. However, the sum available means that the minimum income level increase will bring only marginal benefit to those on lower incomes if applied to all. Applied in this way it is not sufficient to bring about significant change in support for those on lowest incomes. How should we address the potential effect on parental or partner contributions? The question arises as to whether the minimum income level differential between those students in receipt of most public funding and the rest needs to be maintained or whether the differential could be increased. More research may be needed to clarify the rationale for the differential and the impact of increasing it.

4 A further point to consider is the effect of parental/household income thresholds at present. Very marginal differences in household income can have a substantial impact on student entitlements. The proposal changes the threshold but the issue remains. How should the increase in income be addressed for independent who receive no bursary support? students The aim of this option is to support young students from lower income family to access higher education. Given the sum of money involved it should be targeted at this group and there should be no comparative increase for independent students who receive no bursary support. We have indicated elsewhere that we consider that the circumstances of independent students and the availability of funding to them will need review, however. Option 3 Page 17 What are your views on this hybrid option aimed at those on the lowest incomes? This option would focus the money available on dependent students from the lowest income groups. It would have the greatest impact in terms of improving financial support and reducing student debt for this group. Are there any other initiatives further? or ideas that you believe we should explore We have ideas but they presuppose additional funding. In addressing the 30M that is available, we would advise trying to promote a step change in the minimum income level support for the most deprived first time students. This will not only promote access but increase the chances of such students attaining their learning goals if they are able to keep the amount of paid work they do while studying to an acceptable level. What are your views on the options proposed to ensure that the funds available are used as fairly as possible to give students adequate support for their first degree? Option 1 is the option most likely to be a platform to move to grants. It also in the longer term widens the support available to younger students particularly those from lower income families. Option 3 is likely to have a more immediate impact over a shorter time frame with greatest benefit to those from lowest incomes. Do you agree that we should consider removing student loan support for second degrees? There should continue to be access to a loan. However, this could be available via the Career Development Loan rather than the present SMS loan arrangements.

5 Alternatively, should we be maintaining funding for this group to explore more avenues to support opportunities to retrain or upskill those who may face redundancy as part of the effects of the economic situation? This is crucial given the current financial situation and the time that it will take to overcome the present financial downturn. Do you believe that there is a case for removing the minimum loan? There is a case for removing the minimum loan as it currently stands. Administration particularly where loans are being paid on a monthly basis is likely to involve disproportionate costs and the receipt of this modest amount of money for those who have not been identified through means testing is questionable. The money currently used in providing the minimum loan could be targeted at those in most need of financial support rather than spread so thinly. It should not be withdrawn as a cost saving. Do you think that support for travel expenses should by subsumed into the main grant pot or should it remain a separate, claim-based fund? This would simplify the system and reduce administration used to increase the main living cost support. costs freeing funds to be Should we differentiate between day-ta-day travel expenses and trip to and from home from those who stay away from home? There should be no difference in general although consideration should be given to students who have to travel from remote areas to access higher education. What are your views on our proposals funding becomes available in future? to service existing student debt if This would be consistent with the Government's wish to move away from loans, but resources should be targeted to achieve the greatest impact on those we believe with the greatest need. Overall, based on the options and issues presented in this paper, we would welcome your views on what our funding priorities should be for the 30 million pounds available in and in future years. There is an opportunity to target the resources at a reducing number of young dependent students in the lowest income households to create an opportunity for significant change by lessening the financial barriers to this groups ability to access HE. The consultation excludes the 40%+ of HE students in Scotland who choose to study part-time. While moves to increase fee support for those on incomes below the average national wage are extremely welcome, there is no form of maintenance support for these students other than limited hardship funding for those in the most difficult circumstances.

6 Finally, we believe that the student funding scheme should be kept under close review and will have to be adapted if universities and colleges are to support the Government in meeting the related challenges of demographic and economic change. There will need to be radical rethinking of the support available to the range of independent learners (Le. those who do not have access to significant public support at present) given the downward trends in Scottish schoolleaver numbers together with the requirement for a flexible, adaptive workforce with access to lifelong learning. The funding arrangements for postgraduate students should be a key element in the review of student funding, as it is at this level that much of the adaptive education and training will be provided with greatest efficiency and effectiveness.

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