More students sought financial assistance at the University of Glasgow last year than at any other university in Scotland, according to figures obtained by The Glasgow Guardian.
Over the 2015/16 academic year, the University paid out over £1.5million to 961 students in need of financial assistance via the Discretionary Fund. Over the same period, the University of Edinburgh paid out approximately £1.2 million to 672 students in need of assistance while the University of St Andrews paid out approximately £347,000 to 413 students.
Though still the highest in Scotland, the number of Glasgow University students applying for emergency financial assistance has been steadily declining since 2011/12 when approximately £1.5million was paid out to 1,430 students. Since then there has been a year-on-year decrease in the number of students being assisted by the Discretionary Fund.
The Discretionary Fund is a block payment allocated annually to Scottish universities by the Scottish Government to assist students experiencing financial hardship. Universities and colleges decide their own criteria for awarding discretionary payments from the Fund.
Payments from the Discretionary Fund are different at further education institutions and higher education institutions. A payment can be made as a one-off lump sum, in instalments, or as a short term loan.
A spokesperson for the University told The Glasgow Guardian, “We are allocated a sizeable Discretionary Fund each year and we aim to maximise use of these funds in order to provide assistance to as many of our students as possible.
“The Financial Aid Team within the Registry has good working relationships with colleagues from across the University and regularly participates in open days, information sessions and induction events, in order to raise awareness of the funds and service available. Feedback is extremely positive and we are delighted that the Discretionary Fund, along with the University of Glasgow Hardship Fund, helps so many students fulfil their academic ambitions at the University of Glasgow.”
Vice-President for Student Support at the Students’ Representative Council Erin Ross stated: “The Discretionary Fund is SAAS money available to all UK students in receipt of the maximum SAAS funding to which they’re entitled – it’s not an emergency fund as such. It can help towards accommodation costs, costs of disability not met by Disabled Students’ Allowance and so on.
“While the University received the largest amount of discretionary funding for the 2015-2016 academic year, when looking at the figures compared to other Scottish Universities, they’re not disproportionate for the size of the student population at Glasgow.
“We do, however, believe that the Scottish Government and the University could do more to assist students from low-income backgrounds as they work on widening participation more generally.”