NUS Claims Budget Provides “Inadequate Funding” For Colleges and Unis

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NUS Scotland President, Matt Crilly wrote to Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training to detail his concerns with the proposed Scottish budget and how it will unfairly impact students. (see the Full letter below)

Matt has also been sharing his thoughts through video messages. Like, share and comment on these videos – on TikTok, InstagramFacebook and Twitter. Post your own thoughts using the #StudentsDeserveBetter tag.

 

Dear Minister,
Scottish Budget
Following the Stage 1 Budget Debate in the Scottish Parliament today I am writing to you to express my concerns and disappointment about the direct impact the proposed Scottish Budget will have on students, staff and the wider education sector.
This budget delivers a real-terms cut to further and higher education at a time when students have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. In its draft form it is a cut to the core budget of £23.9m for colleges in academic year 2022/23 because of inflation and a five per cent reduction in funding for universities in real-terms.
As you know, NUS Scotland has consistently called on the Scottish Government to fully fund the education of every student place in Scotland. Current funding is inadequate and jeopardises the progress made particularly to widening access. While it is welcome that more students than ever are entering education from SIMD20 postcodes this year it is never enough to simply get students in the door. They need the support to stay, thrive and complete their education. With increased widening access students demands increased funding for our most vulnerable students.
However, more generally I am also concerned that the draft Scottish budget does nothing to finance the commitments made within this year’s Programme for Government which was published only a few months ago. This included starting work to introduce a range of substantial reforms to student support and a commitment that the total student support package will reach the equivalent of the Living Wage over the next three years. There is no evidence that this budget will resource your commitment to increase the student support package in line with the cost of living and that the total package of support will be extended to include the summer months where students are most at risk of poverty. Meanwhile the cost of living is rising, and our recent research found that student rent in Scotland has risen by 34% in the last three years at a faster rate than any other part of the UK.
Support for mental health and wellbeing is also a concern. Recent research shows that nearly half of students (45%) said they had experienced a serious psychological issue that they felt needed professional help. Now is not the time to be withdrawing funding that offers vital support to students. Yet Institutions are already warning that the draft budget deal will result in cuts to student support services, many of which are a lifeline to students including mental health and wellbeing support, advice services and libraries. While funding for counsellors is welcome, broader support for wellbeing must also be available.
There is also no evidence that you’ll introduce a replacement international exchange scheme to replicate the loss of Erasmus with no funding allocated in this year’s budget– if the Welsh Government can make this a priority and fully fund their exchange programme the Scottish Government can do so too.
While I’m pleased to see the budget including support for tackling digital poverty, it simply does go far enough in acknowledging the impact of the pandemic on students. I urge you to reconsider the current deal for students and ensure education is prioritised.
Kind regards,
Matt Crilly
President, NUS Scotland

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