The Scottish Open Letter
Rising tuition fees over the past two decades have not been met by an equal increase in available loans to help cover education. This means that there is an attainability gap in who is able to access further education.
This lack of funding is controlled by politicians who availed themselves of free undergraduate tuition, and postgraduate fees that are a fraction of today's cost, even when adjusted with inflation. On top of this, Scottish students only have access to 50% of tuition loans that is available to students from England and Wales. This means regardless of if you are qualified to continue studying only those who can afford the extra costs, either via their own savings, family support or being granted a grant or scholarship (of which there are very few for taught courses) can continue their studies.
Below is the open letter written by the Scottish Campaign team, if you wish to sign this letter to lobby politicians to consider this funding increase, please click here:
Dear Richard Lochhead (MSP),
We, the signatories of this letter, are writing as Scottish domiciled students (and their supporters) who are shut out of postgraduate education because of the insufficient level of financial support from the current SAAS postgraduate tuition fee loan.
Students from widening participation backgrounds are more likely to be negatively impacted by the current loan amount. Widening participation scheme initiatives are present throughout many universities across Scotland, and aim to encourage students from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds to continue into higher education by removing some of the barriers that they typically face. The Robbins report argued that higher education should be available to anyone who is qualified, regardless of their background and income (Committee on Higher Education, 1963).
Currently, Scottish postgraduate students are entitled to a £5,500 loan (with a further £4,500 for living costs for a total of £10,000). Across many postgraduate taught courses in Scotland, fees greatly exceed the current loan amount that is available to Scottish students. For example, https://www.strath.ac.uk/courses/postgraduatetaught/clinicalhealthpsychology/#feesfunding and while some courses are cheaper (for example, https://www.gla.ac.uk/postgraduate/taught/inclusiveeducationresearchpolicypracticemed/), this constrains students to only be able to access a few cheaper courses which may not be relevant.
It is therefore up to student’s themselves to somehow fund the remainder of the tuition fee cost, whether that be through scholarships, grants, financial support from family members or private loans. Unfortunately, for those wishing to study a taught postgraduate degree, there are very few scholarships available, which leaves many relying on any savings that they have or financial support from their family.
The current loan amount therefore provides inadequate support for students who cannot rely on relatives to fund the remainder of their tuition fees. While their English or Welsh domiciled counterparts are provided with a loan of almost double that of a Scottish student, which may cover most of the fees on some PGT courses, the lack of support available to those from Scotland means that many will miss out on postgraduate opportunities that they are well qualified for. This leaves students from Scotland severely disadvantaged in comparison to those from England and Wales. SAAS have made great strides in supporting care leavers and estranged students (https://www.saas.gov.uk/guides/estranged-students) during their undergraduate studies but these same students are also going to struggle to access postgraduate education for the same reasons we have outlined here.
The Scottish government have already acknowledged that the current COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted upon students access to money, and have announced an emergency package of support for students facing hardship (https://www.studentinformation.gov.scot/extra-hardship-payments-for-students). While we are grateful for this support, the current pandemic means it is especially unlikely that students who are unable to access independent financial support from family will be able to spend any savings on postgraduate tuition. This will likely increase inequality during a time when we need to develop high level skills of Scotland’s diverse talent which will help our country in its recovery. This inequality will have lasting effects, and while support is needed during this period of uncertainty, it is also important that increased support continues beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are therefore writing to ask for increased support for Scottish domiciled students who wish to study at postgraduate level. An increase in the tuition loan amount available is needed urgently to provide Scottish students with the same opportunities to English and Welsh students. An increase in loan amount would allow any Scottish student who is suitably qualified to continue their education and journey through academia. It would prevent students from missing out on vital opportunities or accumulating more debt than necessary. We hope that you can see how vital this support is.