Funding for part time students
More than 20,000 part-time students across Scotland will benefit from new support being introduced next autumn.
The support - in the form of a £500 grant -will benefit new and existing higher education students earning £18,000 or less.
Education and Lifelong Learning Secretary Fiona Hyslop said this was further evidence of the Scottish Government's commitment to ease the burden of student debt. She added:
"We have already stated our intention, subject to Parliamentary approval, to abolish the Graduate Endowment fee. The announcement today is the next step towards moving away from loans to grants and will be a major boost for part-time students where fee costs can be a particular barrier.
"It will help relieve pressures for existing part-time students on low income as well as open up new opportunities for people considering part-time study to retrain or build their skills for the changing needs of our economy.
"Part-time students have very different support needs and any package of financial support needs to recognise those differences. That's why we are also increasing the amount of funding allocated to College and University Hardship Funds by £1 million annually.
"This will help provide more flexible support for part-time students and can be used for study, travel or childcare costs."
Ms Hyslop had the opportunity to meet some part-time students when she visited the University of the West of Scotland today. The university has the highest number of part-time students in Scotland. Principal and Vice Chancellor Professor Seamus McDaid welcomed the announcement.
"This University has led the way in Scotland in developing flexible routes to encourage part-time student participation. We consider this as essential in ensuring that the knowledge and skills required in our private and public sector organisations remains cutting edge. We warmly welcome this initiative that will provide improved government support for such students'
'It is exciting that there is also recognition of the various associated costs with learning, such as childcare, books, study materials and travel costs. There is no doubt that this additional discretionary support will enable some talented students who find it difficult to progress to be appropriately supported and continue to complete their part-time degree successfully.'
The Open University, Scotland's largest provider of part-time higher education, also welcomed today's announcement. Director of The Open University in Scotland, Peter Syme said:
"As the Scottish Government has recognised, the high level skills the country needs cannot be delivered without part-time higher education. Today's announcement of grants will enable more people to combine study with work and family commitments, benefiting especially those in part-time and lower paid jobs who have struggled to cope with the financial commitment. By offering a fairer deal, it is also a welcome step towards the objective of equality of treatment for all students, whether full-time or part-time."
The £500 part-time Higher Education grant will be introduced from academic year 2008/09 for new and existing students who earn £18,000 a year or less and who are studying at 50 per cent or more of a full time course.
This is a new grant with £12 million, £13 million and £13 million allocated over the period of the spending review. It will be delivered through a simplified ILA Scotland model.
Average HE course fees for a complete part-time degree programme are around £4,800 in total or around £800 a year so the cost of part-time study is a significant issue for a number of these students.
Support for additional study costs is currently from an income assessed £500 loan, this is being abolished. Additional support will now be through the additional £1 million a year the government is giving to institutions' hardship funds.