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40% cut from the main means-tested student grant schemes in Scotland in 2013-14

October 28, 2014

The 2013-14 student support statistics are now available.  In a departure from past practice, they have been published as part of a large report with extensive narrative content, which will be worth careful reading.

Meantime, the numbers merit immediate scrutiny. As expected, they show a large fall in spending on grants and a large increase in borrowing.

The report is here and the data tables (easier to interrogate) are here Student support statistics Scotland 2013-14. The statistical news release is here and the ministerial news release is here.

This first post on these statistics looks at the position on the main means-tested grants. Tables A8 and A9 are the sources for the figures quoted below. All figures are given in cash.

Grant: amounts

This is the first time it has been possible to put a definitive figure on the scale of the cut to grants as a result of the reduction in the rates applied to Young Students and Independent Students Bursaries in 2013-14. The effects are in line with predictions in the analysis posted elsewhere on this site.

£89.4 million was spent in 2012-13 on the means-tested programmes for general living cost support: Young Students Bursary, Independent Students Bursary, Student Outside Scotland Bursary and Scottish Health Directorate Bursary.  The last two of these were abolished in 2013-14 and the students concerned moved onto YSB or ISB.

£53.0 million was spent on YSB and ISB in 2013-14.  That represents a reduction of £36.4 million or  40% in one year on the main means-tested programmes of living cost support for the poorest students in Scotland.

Spending on all forms of grant fell by £35.7 million, or 35.5%, as there was an increase of £0.7 million in spending on the other more specialist grants (Dependents Grant, Lone Parents Grant and Disabled Students Allowance). A separate post will look at these.

Grant: claimants

There has been a fall of 955 in the total number of students claiming YSB and ISB (plus the two defunct schemes last year).

That might be expected as a result of ISB entitlement being tightened to only those at incomes under £17,000. However, there seems to be more going on here.

ISB claimants have risen by 1,760.  But YSB claimants have increased by just 15.  Yet there were 2,730 claimants in the two schemes which have  now been rolled into YSB/ISB.  Part of the explanation for the ISB increase will be that Health students are  likely to be older.  Also, new “plus one” rules allowing more students to claim grant for repeat or extra years are likely to have benefitted older students more.  But some younger ones should also have benefitted and “out of Scotland” students are also likely to include numbers of younger ones. A larger increase in YSB numbers would have been expected.  It seems likely that the small rise reported could be masking a fall in the underlying numbers.

Explanations include that there has been a drop in the size of age group (always possible) or that some students at £24,000+ decided this year that it was not worth claiming their grant, a flat-rate £500. A more concerning explanation would be that  participation rates among the least well-off have fallen or at least stalled, continuing the trend in recent years. The figures for YSB claimants have tended to rise and fall in line with changes with the participation rate for “the most deprived”, as measured by the SFC (see table below: new figures on this are also available today, which show a further, small fall).  It will be worth watching to see if these student support figures are providing any kind of straw in the wind for  Scotland’s success in widening access. It may be that the additional descriptive text in the report will help understand this.

The 2013-14 YSB claimant figure is 33,155.  The participation rate for that year will not be available until next autumn.

2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
Young Students Bursary 34,875 34,200 32,430 33,715 34,135 33,285 33,140 33,155
Participation rate (“most deprived”) 34.9 34.7 36.3 38.6 39.7 39.1 39.0 ?
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