Free tuition in Scotland benefits wealthiest students the most – study

The Guardian is reporting a study of higher education funding has found that poorer students in Scotland have been left millions of pounds worse off after cuts to government grants which middle-class families have escaped…

The research by Lucy Hunter Blackburn, a former civil servant with the Scottish government, estimates that free university tuition and the cuts in grants to lower-earning students means middle-class families and students will be £20m a year better off.

She estimates that the overall costs to lower-income families, including thousands of students at further education colleges, have gone up by at least £32m a year after the grant cuts forced them to take out larger loans.

“Free tuition in Scotland is the perfect middle-class, feel-good policy,” Hunter Blackburn said. “It’s superficially universal, but in fact it benefits the better-off most, and is funded by pushing the poorest students further and further into debt.

“The Scottish system for financing full-time students in higher education does not have the egalitarian, progressive effects commonly claimed for it.”

The figures emerged in her detailed comparison of student funding across the UK for the Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and the Economic and Social Research Council. It found that for those from low-income families, Welsh students had the most generous funding packages…

A Scottish government spokesman did not dispute Hunter Blackburn’s figures but insisted the funding package tried to make the costs of studying “more sustainable and easier to pay back in the longer term” and was the most straightforward of any in the UK…”

However, Kezie Dugdale, Scottish Labour’s education spokeswoman, said: “The SNP’s [Scottish National party] choices have meant our colleges and our poorest young people have borne the brunt of the cuts. Any sort of analysis shows the SNP’s policies to be achieving the opposite of what they claim…”

More at: Free tuition in Scotland benefits wealthiest students the most – study

See the Welsh perspective on this study, also from the Guardian: Welsh university students get most financial support in UK

Do you agree with the sentiment behind this study that Scotland’s ‘free tuition’ system is less of a good deal for the less well off than perhaps it is perceived to be? Or, inequalities aside, is the simplicity of the approach something the rest of the UK could learn from? Your thoughts? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Higher Education and Scotland.

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