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Lost voices: the perspective of students whose grants were cut mid-course in 2013

October 21, 2014

The students whose voices come through most clearly in debates about student funding in Scotland appear to be those above the cut-off point for grants (see for example the analysis of a set of recent below the line comments, at the foot of this post). Those affected by grant cuts are harder to hear.

So it’s interesting to come across this set of exchanges on The Student Room site, from the summer of 2013, as letters notifying students of their new lower grant entitlement were sent out: Anyone Else’s Bursary Cut Substantially Despite No Changes?

Just two observations here.

First, the letters sent to students evidently did not explain why their grant was falling. That’s just poor public information practice.  The failure to do so treated students as passive recipients of largesse, not entitled to any explanation of why major changes were being applied to them.  It’s also clear from the thread that some people substantially affected had no idea this was coming. That was poor public information practice, too.

Second, some of these students at least were clearly unhappy.  But with the NUS fully signed up to the new arrangements and indeed  going out if its way to avoid reference to grant cuts (see here) there was no-one there willing to act as their voice.  Strongly encouraged to accept the changes without complaint, and even to welcome them, and lacking decent information or a body willing to channel their concerns, we will never know how widespread or how strongly-felt disappointment and concern was among the students affected, particularly those who saw their grant substantially reduced mid-course. I argued at the time (see here) that for those affected mid-course there was at first sight the basis for a judicial review: but that was never likely to happen if the NUS was engaged in a process of persuading its members to look positively on what was happening to them.

Simply so these rarely-heard voices are not completely lost, here’s what this small group reported:

My award letter came in the other day and my bursary (so not including loans for living) was £500 (so 50 per month after the initial £100 in september).
But last year it was £1550 and thus i was gettng £155 per month.
Nothing has really changed, i dont work, my dad is retired and my mum workes part time.
Im entering my final 5th year of the course.
Any ideas folks or should i get on the phone and ask wtf?

The bursaries have all been reduced by quite a lot. Last year, my bursary was around £2500 and this year it’ll be £500 (I’m an independent student). The majority of living costs will be covered by the loan, if you’ve chosen to apply for it, that is.

thanks, yeah i just seen a document that explains all. They are being stingey with the free money lol.

[Someone adds “not really, free money goes towards your tuition fees if you stay in Scotland.” No reference to being personally affected by grant cuts.]

YES me i’m getting £100 a month and i spend £14 a day on train fair to uni. So this really sucks I’m not sure if i can afford to go back to uni. It’s not because it’s your final year it’s because they have simplified the bursary process this year basically everyone whose household income is between something like 17,000 a year and 25,000 a year all get the same amount paid to them. Those under 17,000 get more (can’t remember exact figure) and those over 25,000 get less (£50 a month)

This last person appears to be living at home, in a household with an income between £17,000 and £25,000 and not wanting to take out a loan. They are likely to have lost at least £1000 in grant.  Let’s hope they overcame their resistance to loans, if necessary, and stuck with their course.





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