pound;30 million package for students
The Education Secretary has announced a revised student support package worth pound;30 million that will benefit independent students in particular, most of whom are "mature" and likely to be victims of the recession.
Fiona Hyslop acknowledged to the Scottish Parliament that some of the changes to the Government's original plans had been made in response to lobbying by the National Union of Students Scotland.
The student body had argued against plans to spread additional funding across all students and called for some funds to be targeted at the poorest. The measures, announced on Wednesday, include the creation of a new grant of up to pound;1,000 for independent students over the age of 25.
This meant that, for the first time since devolution, universal grants would be available to students, whether they were under or over 25, said Ms Hyslop.
The grant for independent students of up to pound;1,000 is expected to benefit 14,000 of all ages who were previously reliant on loans.
The maximum level of the income-assessed loan, which attracts a 0 per cent interest rate, will be increased by pound;442, benefiting 75,900 students; the additional student loan, for those on lowest incomes, will rise from pound;605 to pound;785 and be extended to independent students.
Ms Hyslop also confirmed that pound;2m would be provided to increase childcare support for students via university and college discretionary funds for the next academic year.
Liam Burns, NUS Scotland president, said: "The Government have shown themselves to be responsive, flexible and genuinely working with, and for, students. We have worked closely with both the Government and the opposition parties, and I believe this is a clear example of what can be achieved when people put politics to one side to work together for the best possible outcome."
But Claire Baker, Labour's shadow minister for higher education, said Keith Brown, Minister for Schools and Skills, had rejected the proposals put forward by opposition parties and NUS Scotland last week. "Fiona Hyslop has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this point," she said.