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“Why” is always a good question

October 30, 2015

After a few days over which student grant and debt in Scotland have received a lot of critical attention,  an email has been sent to this site which says simply “Why?”

There’s no more explanation than that.  But “why” is always a good question and lies behind much of the work on this site.

I’m guessing the writer may not be sympathetic to criticism of the Scottish Government position on student funding (apologies if I have got that wrong).  In that case, the why seems likely to be why do you do this?  There’s a long answer to that here.

But there’s a shorter answer in the tables below, which show how Scotland’s steeply rising student loan borrowing (a) is designed to be higher for and (b) falls disproportionately to those from the lowest incomes, who will in future be expected to pay back more of their earnings to the state – a regressive graduate tax in all but name.  That continues to be worth highlighting.

(a)  Entitlements from SAAS

Grant (Young) Loan (Young) Grant (Mature) Loan


Up to £16,999 1,875 5,750 875 6750
£17,000 to £23,999 1,125 5,750 0 6750
£24,000 to £33,999 500 5,750 0 6250
£34,000 and above 0 4,750 0 4750

(b) Actual borrowing shares 2014-15: derived from Table A6 here

 % share
Number of SG-supported students: Scot doms only Borrowing Share of borrowing
Up to £16,999 29.4 39.0 33% higher than population share
£17,000 to 33,999 14.6 17.6 21% higher than population share
£34,000 and above 56.0 43.3 23% lower than population share

Note: Up to £16,999 includes those with no income declared on a full or partial bursary; £34,000 and above includes those with no income declared receiving no bursary, assumed income is over the qualifying threshold (£33,999). 14,400 EU students have been removed from the no income/no bursary category for total student numbers, to reflect that they are not able to borrow.

There are other dimensions to the Scottish system which need scrutiny: the existence of  a large minority of low-income students limiting their state support to the grant element only, so that they are trying to get by on annual living cost support of less than £2,000, sometimes no more than £500; and, the net transfer of resources from less well off to better off students over the past decade, through the student funding system.

Why? It’s a very good question.


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