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Student finances need to be revised

The National Union of Students Scotland is calling on politicians to give better financial support to further education students' associations so they can strengthen their representation activities.

The student body also wants political parties to pledge to keep Scotland "top-up free" and raise the graduate endowment threshold from pound;15,000 to pound;25,000. It wants a guaranteed minimum income for students of Pounds 7,000 a year, based on loans and bursaries.

The organisation, which represents 85 per cent of students in higher education and 90 per cent in FE, last week launched its education manifesto for the forthcoming Scottish elections.

James Alexander, NUS Scotland president, urged politicians to address "the inadequacies of student support, the inequalities which force thousands to drop out each year, and the inhibitors to access which still deny thousands of young Scots the opportunity to reach further and higher".

The manifesto says: "Students cannot be expected to pay an ever-increasing 'contribution' to the costs of learning without a corresponding decrease in application figures from the very groups of society the executive wishes to increase access to."

Other student body demands are reform of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework to accredit work-based learning and experience; and government grants for small businesses to allow their employees to undertake further study in the workplace.

The creation of a national widening access unit would look closely at the physical and psychological barriers within the school curriculum which inhibit access, while challenging FE and HE institutions to review their applications process.

Among a range of measures to improve students' finances, NUS Scotland wants part-time students to be eligible for student loan and tuition fee support, a summer maintenance allowance for the poorest students and a review of the means-testing system to iron out "substantial inconsistencies and loopholes".

It is also pressing for council tax breaks to benefit students moving from Higher National Certificates to Higher National Diplomas and undergraduates entering postgraduate study (including teaching, nursing and other vocationally-based courses).

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