Our submission, and the oral evidence we provided to the Committee on 24 November 2015, emphasised the importance of a fair and easily understandable system of student support.
The evidence on the link between fees, student support and widening access is complex. It is certain that the move to increase tuition fees to up to £9,000 in England has not had a negative impact on widening access in that sector. However, it is thought that students from widening access backgrounds are more debt averse than other groups of students. The evidence around a correlation between debt and student retention is more definite and this is an important element to consider in any assessment of student support.
Our priorities for student support are that Scotland needs a system that is easily understood and easily navigable by students and parents. We support the need for student loans as an important part of the mix of student support but our preference is for a model that ensures that the poorest students aren’t the worst off financially because of the extra loan support they may require. We also called for consideration of better forms of student support for part-time students and those studying at postgraduate taught level. Support for full-time undergraduate students is important but it is only one mode and level of study.