UNISONScotland www
This is our archive website that is no longer being updated.
For the new website please go to
Click here
Home News About us Join Us Contacts Help Resources Learning Links UNISON UK


 Scottish Parliament

Student Finance - What Do You Think?

UNISON Scotland Response

UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation paper Student Finance – What do you think?

UNISON Scotland is a major education union having thousands of members employed in higher and further education institutions.

But our members do not just work in higher and further education. Many of our 150,000 members in Scotland are students themselves, in both a full time and part time basis, studying for professional or vocational qualifications.

Top of page

Student Support for Living Costs

UNISON supports the equal treatment of all students – in higher or further education, full time or part time, in continuous or discontinuous study.

The present system of support is weighted in favour of higher education and towards students from better off backgrounds. This emphasis must change. Opportunities need to be made available to the many not the few.

The system of support needs to minimise the real and perceived barriers to higher and further education.

UNISON members working in higher and further education encounter the reality of student poverty every day. The biggest problem for students is their day to day living.

Not all students can rely on support from their parents, guardians, partners and the present student loan awards are insufficient to cover living expenses.

UNISON supports the re-introduction of a living maintenance grant for all over 16 in education and training - as a means of tackling student poverty. The grant should provide for accommodation, travelling, food, books and equipment.

We are also seeking a restoration of income support and housing benefit entitlement to students, particularly during vacations.

We are aware that not all institutions now provide subsidised accommodation and we would encourage the Independent Committee to consider this issue in their review.

Top of page

Student Contribution Towards Tuition

UNISON is committed to a fully-funded, comprehensive, quality, lifelong education system encompassing all sectors, including further and higher education and distance learning.

UNISON believes that education should be free at the point of use.
UNISON is concerned that the present system deters people from low income backgrounds and mature students from entering higher and further education.

The statistic that 80% of higher education students come from average/above average backgrounds and only 9% from low income backgrounds is a damning one and highlights the failure of both present and past systems of support to students.

In the run up to the Scottish Parliament elections UNISON commissioned from MORI an opinion poll on this issue and found that 65% of those surveyed opposed the Government's policy on tuition fees and that 41% supported a grant based system and 51% a combination of grants and loans. Only 5% supported a loans based system.

UNISON recommends the abolition of tuition fees and believes that education should be funded out of a progressive tax system, not by students who are often unable to pay.
If tuition fees are to remain we believe that additional measures will need to be taken to protect students from disadvantaged backgrounds – for example by substantially raising the threshold after which students are liable for fees.

Top of page

Quality and Standards

UNISON fully appreciates the link between funding and quality in higher and further education and has made numerous representations to Government in recent years expressing concern that the rapid increase in student numbers has not been matched with increase in funding to institutions.

We believe there is a crisis in funding in higher and further education which urgently needs to be addressed.

We believe that any reduction in fee income that results from their abolition should be met from general government reserves.

Top of page

Access to Lifelong Learning

We believe that any system of student support should be geared towards widening access to higher and further education – with particular focus of encouraging greater take up of opportunities from people from low income households, mature students, manual workers, disabled people, black people, women returning to the labour market after having children etc.

We believe the principle barrier to higher and further education for these groups is the lack of financial support.

Many UNISON members wish to take up opportunities for lifelong and distance learning but are unable to afford to do so. Neither discounted loans nor grants are made available to them. We would encourage the Independent Committee to address this issue in their review.

Matt Smith
UNISON Scottish Secretary

Top of page

Submissions index | Home