College rising to challenge of funding poorer students

BORDERS College has pledged every effort to ensure poorer students do not miss the chance to study should bursary cash be cut.

It follows research by NUS Scotland which showed at least 14 of Scotland’s 40 colleges had overspent their student funding allocation for this academic year. Borders College is among nine further education institutions which have used up their full bursary amount of £1.67million.

And with the Scottish Government proposing to reduce the bursary budget from £95million to £84million from August, there are fears that those from poorer backgrounds will not receive financial assistance.

A spokeswoman for Borders College said: “Borders College’s situation is that we have fully committed our bursary and student funding allocation, and through our diligent management processes we are in the fortunate position of having sufficient funds in place to meet all these commitments for this academic year.”

She added that Borders College was not yet aware of its allocation for 2012-13 and beyond. “However, it would be fair to say any future reductions in student support funding will be concerning and a serious challenge for us. Therefore the college will make every endeavour to ensure we continue to receive adequate funding to support Borders students,” she said.

NUS Scotland is campaigning for bursary funding to be protected by the Scottish Government, which claims it is maintaining student numbers and college support.

President Robin Parker said: “This analysis is incredibly worrying as it shows that even the current £95.6million budget was not enough to meet demand from the poorest students hoping to go to college just now.

“This year we’ve relied on college reserves, but next year, given the cuts institutions are also facing, we won’t be able to do that.

“The SNP’s manifesto was clearly right in May to promise to protect this budget throughout the parliament, but they are now absolutely wrong to be proposing an £11million cut. This would be a cut to the poorest people in some of the poorest communities in Scotland.”

He added: “At a time of high unemployment and youth unemployment in particular, this drastic cut to student support could price people out of college and force them on to benefits, undermining government’s efforts to tackle youth unemployment in Scotland.”

John Spencer, convener of Scotland’s Colleges Principals’ Convention, said institutions often had to use their own funds to help ensure demand for bursaries is met.

“Colleges support the poorest and most disadvantaged young people in Scotland, and as we look to another three years of budgets falling and the additional costs of reform, it is important that all efforts are made to protect those learners,” said Mr Spencer.

“No student should face having to drop out of their studies because of bursary money running out.”

Adding child care and discretionary funding, Borders College was allocated £1.9million for 2011-12.