Some conversations, you never forget. About two years ago, I had one of those in a café with the former president of a college student association. We had met to talk about high-level governance issues at regional and national level, but a passing reference caught my attention.
There had been a line of students outside his office in the college as he left, he said. “What were they waiting for?” I asked, half-expecting an answer relating to some upcoming social event. “Food vouchers,” came the unexpected reply.
Food and fuel vouchers
Because there is no entitlement to support funding for FE students, there were some who had to choose whether to pay for the travel to college or to eat.
The student association had decided to opt out of national events with the NUS students’ union to invest all its available funding into supermarket and fuel vouchers for students.
Last week, a review of this funding was launched in Scotland. If accepted, the recommendations would put FE on a level with HE, with access to loans and a minimum income made up of a combination of bursaries and loans. It would be a step in the right direction, but currently it is no more than a recommendation. As our feature shows, the entitlement for students across the home nations varies significantly.
When we consider the funding pot for FE, we should not forget that if we don’t make sure students are sufficiently supported, they won’t be there to benefit from the opportunities colleges can provide.