Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur MSP has today questioned how the lack of vital college bursaries in Scotland will help widen access to further education.
At Topical Questions in Parliament Mr McArthur quizzed the Education Secretary over the Scottish Government’s failure to plug a multi-million-pound shortfall in support funds, which NUS Scotland President, Vonnie Sandlan, has described as ‘a disaster for college students’.
Figures from NUS Scotland this week showed that by December 2015, 67% of Scotland’s colleges had already committed all of or more than their bursary budget while 70% had committed all or more of their childcare budget.
The vast majority of colleges have made up the shortfall by using core college funds and one-third said they had closed applications or limited awards for hardship funds as those had been used to top up the bursary budget.
Speaking in Parliament Mr McArthur said: “This is a mess. If the SNP really wanted to widen access to education, there are alternatives to their cuts agenda. Instead of continuing to underfund our colleges, Scottish Ministers should accept the case for using the powers Parliament has to make an investment in education.
“The Liberal Democrat proposal would raise £475m to transform education and repair the damage done to our colleges over recent years. In that time, we have seen 152,000 college places lost. Meanwhile, applications for hardship funds are closing early so that colleges can plug a massive funding gap.
“We know that a lack of funding support is the main reason students drop out of courses. This is a waste of potential, both for the individual and for Scotland.
“Rather than cutting courses and short-changing college students, SNP Ministers should back Scottish Liberal Democrat plans to invest in our education system”.