Students and universities urge Scottish Government to follow Wales on twin-track support package to get through COVID

Scotland’s student and university leaders have joined together to commend the Welsh Government on its twin-track approach to supporting higher education students and institutions through the COVID crisis. This comes on the day that the Welsh Government announces a new package of £40 million available to support students facing financial hardship. The Welsh Government has recognise the need to support students and institutions throughout the pandemic, with separate streams of funding made available. In addition to funding for student hardship, the Welsh Government committed a 13.5% increase to university funding in its draft budget, first published on 21 December.

Responding to the joint package of support for students and institutions, Universities Scotland Director Alastair Sim said:

“Today’s announcement from the Welsh Government is further demonstration that they understand the impact that the pandemic is having on the higher education sector: there is an immediate need to support students as well as a longer-term commitment to the sustainability of universities themselves.

 “Next week’s Scottish Government budget should prioritise investment in higher education as the Welsh Government did in December. Welsh universities are now in a better place to assist their economy in recovering from the pandemic.

 “With erosion of funding over the past five years in addition to the impact of the pandemic and Brexit, it is vital that our universities are supported in next week’s budget to give students and the wider economy the world class higher education sector that Scotland needs.”

Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland President said:

“Today’s funding from the Welsh Government is welcome news as it puts money back into the pockets of students who have struggled throughout the pandemic- the Scottish Government must follow.

“While improvements to cost-of-living support introduced by the Scottish Government are welcome, they do not go far enough and need to be built on – now more than ever due to the economic devastation caused by covid-19 which threatens to push learners in Scotland into significant financial hardship.

“Students are being expected to pay rent for accommodation they can’t use, while some are relying on foodbanks and increased debt just to make ends meet. NUS Scotland continues to call for urgent support from the Scottish Government to ensure no student is left struggling financially.”

Universities in Wales will receive £40 million with a priority towards vulnerable students to help with digital exclusion, expenses such as accommodation costs and strengthening of student advice and support services.

This is in addition to the recent Welsh Government budget where Welsh universities received an additional 13.5% increase in revenue funding between 2020/21 and 2021/22. This means that funding per student in Wales is now close to England, whereas in Scotland, teaching is funded at 90% of the cost.

Ahead of next week’s budget, Universities Scotland are asking the Scottish Government to invest an additional £205.9 million into core budgets for universities in its January budget for 2021/22.  A further £64 million would support new skills and business-focused innovation activities capable of catalysing Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic.