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£5m Digital Poverty fund for Scottish universities

By Giselle Inglis

This funding is to help tackle digital exclusion as classes in Glasgow this year will consist of blended learning, meaning that some classes will take place remotely.

The Scottish Funding Council has announced a £5m Digital Poverty fund to help Scottish colleges and universities tackle the digital exclusion among disadvantaged students. The announcement of this fund comes as universities and colleges reveal that classes will consist of blended learning, meaning that many classes will take place remotely.

It is indicated that this will make cash available to institutions to bridge the “digital divide”, and give the devices that students need to access learning. The Scottish Funding Council is responsible for allocating the public funds to the universities and colleges on behalf of the priorities of the Scottish government. These funds can include building university infrastructure as well as the cost of learning and teaching. 

The announcement of the Digital Poverty fund was in addition to other financial support that the council is giving to cope with the impacts of Covid-19, which includes £75m to protect world-leading university research, £10m for estates development, and early access to £11.4m of higher education hardship funds. 

The president of NUS Scotland, Matt Crilly, welcomed the news, especially due to the blended model of learning for the next academic year, stating: “It is more important than ever that students have access to the laptops, internet, and equipment that they will need for their studies.”

This attempt to promote digital inclusion while fighting the effects of Covid-19 is in-keeping with the targets made in the Scottish budget 2020-21, which aimed towards equal access to higher education by 2030, and to work with universities and colleges to develop initiatives which reduce child poverty rates. 

The focus on inclusion comes as Scottish 18-year-olds from advantaged areas are four times more likely to go straight to university than those from disadvantaged areas. John Swinney, cabinet secretary for education and skills stated: “We need to see an ongoing commitment from the Scottish government to provide hardship funding to students in the short term.”

The Scottish government claims that through addressing these digital barriers, there is widened access to learning to the students from disadvantaged backgrounds at university and college. 


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