The new SNP-Green Coalition set out its Programme for Government with detailed plans on tackling student issues.
A Fairer, Greener Scotland, this year’s Programme for Government by the SNP-Green coalition, was published earlier this month. Education was a major focus of the programme, with it taking measures to “build on the strong progress already made in helping students from poorer backgrounds into university”.
One measure includes a planned reform to the student support system, ensuring that the support package will reach the equivalent of a living wage over the next three years. The programme also addresses student accommodation and the economic difficulties it poses. It calls for a review into student accommodation across Scotland, and proposes a guarantorship system for estranged students.
Matt Crilly, president of NUS (National Union of Students) Scotland, expressed strong support for these initiatives, “to make sure students on benefits do not lose out because they are entitled to student support.”
Student mental health was another focus of the programme. It establishes a Student Mental Health Action Plan, funded by £4.2m in its first year, which will see 80 additional counsellors employed in universities and colleges over the next two years. This was an issue the NUS had strongly advocated for, and Crilly was “delighted” to see it implemented.
The issue of student loans was also addressed. A reform to the loan system will see a halting in payments for those on maternity leave. This will be accompanied by a total review of funding for postgraduate students.
Another focus was student exchange programmes. The programme will both establish a new Scottish Education Exchange Programme and aim to return Scotland to the Erasmus+ programme.
However, Crilly expressed concerns that the programme did not address one of the NUS’ key policies: a support system that can aid students outside of the academic term. He called on the government to “address the cliff-edge students face when summer comes and our SAAS and bursary payments stop”. He argues that the government “kicked the can down the road” on this issue, as the SNP had pledged their support to the proposal in the May 2021 election.
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