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Student loan for Scottish 2016 leavers up 13%

June 15, 2017

The Student Loans Company has published the average final debt for students who left HE last year: link here.

The figure for Scotland is now £11,740, an increase of 13.3% on the previous year.  The longer term trend is more striking: see chart below. Average final debt has roughly doubled in cash terms (the real terms rise will be less dramatic, but still substantial) since the current Scottish Government entered office in 2007  promising students that it would “dump the debt”.

Screenshot 2017-06-15 at 09.36.39

Source: SLC

The rise since 2012 is due to the changes to student funding implemented in Scotland in 2013 still working their way through.  What’s pushing up debt is the substitution of loan for around one-third of grant, and the general use of loan to increase living cost support across the board, but especially at middle-to-high incomes.  There’s potential for a further step up next year, when the first cohort on four year courses who have studied wholly under the 2013 reforms will be included.

The figure for Scotland remains lower than elsewhere in the UK. That’s partly due to there being no fee debt for those staying here, but the size of the gap with other UK nations is exaggerated by the higher proportion here who leave after doing a one or two year HNC/D.   That will bring down the average.  Roughly, it appears to mean that the Scottish average doesn’t represent the average after 4 years (let alone the 1+4/2+3/2+4 models used by half of those moving from college to university). It’s closer to the average over 3 years.

The next nearest UK nations for debt levels are Wales (£19,280) and Northern Ireland (£20,990). With its £9,000 fee regime pretty much fully rolled out, England now sits £32,220: this figure will rise further, given grant cuts for new entrants from last autumun, but that won’t show until this group leaves in a few years’ time.

In comparing Scotland and Wales, in particular, it’s worth remembering that in Scotland low-income students borrow above average each year, while in Wales the opposite applies.

So there are a few reasons these figures don’t provide a good guide to the reality of final debt for low-income students leaving university in Scotland, or comparing with other parts of the UK.  That won’t stop them being quoted in support of the Scottish status quo.  But their limits shouldn’t be forgotten.

More here on the impact on the numbers of HNs and the skewing of debt towards lower incomes in Scotland.





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