Scottish Labour has pledged to introduce an increased study income for students in Scotland.
The pledge is based on Labour’s plans for a £10 per hour Real Living Wage and will award students for 25 hours of study time each week. This will result in a minimum of £9,500 being available to higher education students through loans and bursaries.
This follows a 2017 independent review which recommended a minimum student income of £8,100 and more favourable conditions for the repayment of student loans, among other changes to student financial support services.
Currently, the minimum level of funding for undergraduates with Scottish fee status is £4,750 per year. According to the proposal, the increased budget required to fund this increase would come from the £3 billion extra Scotland would receive annually from Labour’s General Election pledges for public services investment, as the Barnett formula dictates.
This falls under the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament, so it would not be actionable by a UK government after the general election on 12 December.
In a statement, MSP and Scottish Labour’s Education Spokesperson Iain Gray said: “This is the difference a UK Labour government can make to the people of Scotland. “Students have been badly let down by the SNP. For too long, college students have had a raw deal and it is only right that parity between further and higher education is increased.
“Labour’s Real Living Wage will be for everyone, students included. A Scottish Labour government elected in 2021 would direct the additional money provided by a UK Labour government to this purpose.
“But I am challenging Nicola Sturgeon and her Education Secretary John Swinney to match this pledge, and start preparations for a £9,500 Minimum Student Income from day one of a UK Labour government.”
This proposal would potentially benefit over 170,000 students, according to Labour figures.
In a statement, Edinburgh University Students’ Association President Andrew Wilson said: “The cost of living issue is a really important one, for too long now student funding has fallen behind the real living wage and this is having a genuine impact on students’ ability to fully engage with the university. “We would welcome any policy announcement which offers a real benefit to students and aims to provide more cost of living support for all students.
“However, it remains to be seen how much of this additional income comes in the form of a bursary or a repayable loan.
We believe the focus should be on bursaries rather than repayable loans, as students are already leaving university with record levels of debt.”
National Union of Students Scotland President Liam McCabe said: “We welcome Scottish Labour’s commitment to increase cost-of-living support available to Scotland’s students.
“With a new Real Living Wage rate announced, cost-of-living support available to students is to fall even further behind living costs faced by students.
“We will continue to make the case for increased investment in cost-of-living support to be focused on the non-repayable bursary, so we don’t see students, especially those from the poorest backgrounds, saddled with unsustainable levels of debt for years to come.”
The Student reached out to the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish National Party but is, at time of writing, yet to receive a reply.
Image: LSE Library via Flickr.com