For the past three years college bursary funding has been overstretched – leading to colleges having to either dip into reserves or make cuts to the already inadequate levels of student support found in Scotland.
This year colleges are almost £9 million short of demand.
Next year the draft budget proposes a further real terms cut of over £1.7 million for 2011/12. If demand stays the same there will be a £14 million shortfall next year.
Bursary funding is provided to colleges by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and then on to students by individual colleges. The funds are discretionary and cash-limited, available to students on a first come, first served basis, meaning not all students who are eligible for funding will receive support, and not all students with the same needs will receive the same amount of support. When the money runs dry (as it has done for the past three) – it is students who directly suffer.
In 2009, an NUS Scotland survey of college principals found over 90% had experienced severe pressure on bursary funds and many had been forced to cut support for existing students and/or to close the doors to new ones. In 2010, James Watt College made the decision to halve students’ bursary funding for the last month of term because they didn’t have the money to pay them – this amounted ti a funding reduction of over £200 for some students, with very little notice.
Cutting the overall fund will mean that individual colleges will have even less to distribute to their students. Colleges either have to support fewer students, or reduce the levels of support.
Either way, support is withdrawn from some of Scotland’s least well of FE students. Increasing student hardship and stress whilst damaging access to places.
The amount of money in question is trivial relative to the further hardship it will place on students in further education colleges.
This is a disgusting attack on our generation – which will only damage social mobility and the prospects of Scottish students. Ultimately, the whole nation will suffer. And for what? Trivial budget savings.
The system is flawed. It must be rectified.