the real value of T

The university Teaching Grant: an investment in every student

Ahead of the Scottish Government’s 2017 budget, we made a positive case for investment in the university Teaching Grant. Investing in the Teaching Grant is an investment in every student.

We asked the Scottish Government to protect the amount of teaching resource spent on each student in real terms in 2018/19.

On 14 December, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay announced a revenue budget for higher education institutions of £1,024.9 million, a 1.1 per cent increase in spending, compared to the previous year. 

The Teaching Grant, or ‘T’ grant as university planners and others in HE call it, is the funding that higher education institutions receive to provide an undergraduate education to every Scottish and EU domiciled student.

Calling it the Teaching Grant underplays the real value of this grant. The Teaching Grant is spent on teaching students but it is also spent on a wide range of services that are vital to support students through their years at university. Services like study skills, support for mental health, retention, employability and careers advice. It supports the additional elements that ensure a high-quality experience for learners; features like having students as a partner in quality enhancement and embedding enterprise and entrepreneurship into our teaching. It also covers many hidden ‘backroom’ but fundamental services like timetabling and registry.

The Teaching Grant starts work for students even before they have enrolled at university. It supports widening access, outreach into schools and partnerships with colleges. It supports the whole admissions process including work to contextualise admissions and recognising an applicant’s potential.

On the teaching side of the Teaching grant, the funding covers the creation and development of new courses, it supports partnerships with employers, industry and others to make sure courses are professionally relevant. The Grant supports teaching that is informed by current research, as driven by academics, so that students get the very most from studying at university.

At, an average of £6,999 of Scottish Government funding per student place, universities make this Grant work very hard for every student.

The stories that follow, are just a small indication of the huge range of roles and activity that the teaching grant supports. The stories, from the dedicated and committed staff working in our higher education institutions, show the contribution they make to the student experience in higher education.

That’s the real value of the university Teaching Grant.

Read more staff stories in the real value of T 

Our students bring a wealth of views to exciting research questions

Professor Rebecca Sweetman is a Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology. Talking about her work as a researcher and the benefits that brings to teaching, she says:

“As an active researcher, I have found that some of my most rewarding work has been with students in the classroom or on site, as we explore, argue and engage with the latest research. Our students can bring a wealth of views and approaches to understanding new and exciting research questions.

“As an archaeologist, portraying a vibrant view of the past is fundamental to my teaching; it is not simply teaching archaeological methods and history, it is about allowing students develop their own skills and views through interactive and research-led teaching.

“Research has shown that students who are involved in the process of discovering the material and issues about a subject, are more engaged learners. I have also found, that rather than just telling students about the issues, exploring them together makes students more motivated to engage.”

I love this work. The main draw is seeing pupils or adult returners progress to university.

Neil Croll is Head of Widening Participation. He says:

“The freedom to pursue education is a fundamental right which should be open to everyone. The fact that it is not makes widening participation necessary.

“I love this work. It is successful because of the people involved and their imagination, creativity and willingness to fight for a just cause. But the main draw is, of course, seeing pupils or adult returners to education progress to university via our widening participation programmes, despite having the odds stacked against them through complexities of life or deprivation caused by poverty and the disadvantages this can bring.

“If we are truly successful in widening participation to higher education, I should one day find myself redundant within the university sector and seeking a new line of employment. If it comes, I’ll approach that day with the same sense of achievement, anticipation and sheer joy I see on those students’ faces, but until then, I’ll enjoy fighting for them each day in what I am proud to call my work, in what I feel is one of the most important roles we as a university sector can play.”

We are not just teaching library skills but life skills

Heather Marshall is a Senior Librarian – Academic Liaison.  Talking about her job and her contribution to the student experience at university, she says:

“Our library is often the first our undergraduate students have used and I show them how to make the best use of our resources.  My team and I teach classes and see students for appointments. Students can come in a bit of a panic and I recently saw a distressed student who had done a significant amount of work on her proposal only to find out she had to change it.  We worked together to revise her search and she went away much happier and clearer on how to progress.  I know I made a real difference for her and that happens every day for me and my team.

“Your library develops much-needed abilities. We are not just teaching library skills but life skills – from the importance of evidence-based decision making to evaluating news reports. Love your library!”

Almost 60% of students need help for mental health. Only one in five seek support.

IIiyan Stefanov is Head of Student Services. Talking about the priority focus of mental health support for students, IIiyan says:

“Over the past 15 years or so there has been an explosion of mental health issues among students. From a university study in Scotland, we know that almost 60% of students needed help for mental health or wellbeing issues. However, only one in five of them sought support.

“This has highlighted an issue for student services. Our services are traditionally geared to react to demand, but we have discovered that when a student requires assistance because of a mental health issue they are typically more likely to withdraw and not seek support.

“I initiated an organisational change designed around the idea of placing the student at the centre of our efforts. Crucially, our service not only helps struggling students to survive their university journey, it aims to equip them with self-confidence and to ensure they feel positive about their future.”

Students feel safe telling us their hopes and dreams. Helping them along the road is such a privilege.

Shona Johnston is Head of Careers, Employability and Enterprise. Talking about her team and the services they provide for students, she says:

“The idea that the Careers Service is where students come in their final year to find a job has completely changed. From the very beginning of first year, students have access to a huge range of fantastic opportunities to help them develop their skills and find out where their passions lie.

“Work experience is hugely valuable both to help students apply their learning in the world of work, and to try out potential future career paths. It’s really important to us that these opportunities are open to all students, regardless of background.

“What really makes a difference to students is not just the experience but being supported to reflect on what they’ve learned and how they can apply this to their future plans, and this is often revelatory.

“We’re trained to be impartial and so students feel “safe” in telling us about their hopes and dreams, and being able to help[ing] them along the road to these is such a privilege.”

Key Points:

  • In the 2017 Scottish Government budget, we are asking that the Teaching Grant is protected in real terms. We estimate it would cost approximately £10million to do this.
  • The Teaching Grant funds of 124,000 Scottish and EU domiciled students to study at university at undergraduate level.
  • Audit Scotland worked out that the Teaching Grant is an investment of about £6,999 per student place in 2014/15.
  • The teaching Grant was worth a total of £692.8 million to universities in 2017/18.


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