Editor's comment

11th February 2011 at 00:00

Who said the days of successful campaigning were dead, with a few exceptions such as the Gurkhas? And who said students were not the rebellious campaigning force they once were? The answer is that almost everyone did, on both counts. But the National Union of Students in Scotland has proved them all wrong, on both counts. The spectacular success of the union's well-organised pressure to persuade Finance Secretary John Swinney to dig deeper into his pockets on behalf of student bursaries (p18) is a fitting culmination of NUS Scotland's 40th year celebrations.

It is a win-win for all concerned. Students have the uncertainty removed of whether they can support themselves at college. The colleges, at least for next year, will avoid the embarrassing yearly ritual of running out of bursary funds. The Scottish Liberal Democrats, who provided the parliamentary muscle, will hope to redeem themselves in the eyes of students bitter at the way the party reneged over its election pledge on tuition fees south of the border. John Swinney can claim to be a listening minister - and also enjoy the plaudits of being a consummate operator.

Of course, some luck is required on these occasions. Mr Swinney has to listen because the SNP Government does not have a parliamentary majority. And colleges are able to make a strong claim on public finances because they are pivotal to the battle against the forces of economic darkness. This deal, in other words, was in everyone's self-interest as well as the general interest.

But it is a rare moment of celebration in the gathering gloom. Colleges as a whole are not out of the woods yet, as they wrestle with the 10 per cent cut in their grant for next year. The challenge now, for both the college and university sectors, is how to put student funding on a more secure footing for the long term.

Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine) 2009.

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