An investigation by The Glasgow Guardian has revealed that the average amount of money awarded by the discretionary fund last semester has decreased by nearly 70% compared to a year previous, after funding awarded by the Scottish Government during the pandemic was removed.
Figures obtained by The Glasgow Guardian from a Freedom of Information request (FOI) have shown that the average award made to students through the discretionary fund has decreased by 69% over the last year. The average award granted last semester was £1284, compared to £4182 a year previous in semester one of the 2021/22 academic year.
Additional funding given to Universities by the Student Awards Agency Scotland boosted the fund by £6 million, evenly split between the 2020/21 academic year and 2021/22 academic year. A spokesperson for the University has said that “the University was awarded £1.7M in discretionary funding for the current year, reverting to the pre-pandemic level”.
The figures also show that the amount of money awarded in total has also declined significantly, by 59%, from over £1,500,000 in semester one of the 2021/22 academic year to just over £600,000 in the first semester of the current year.
However, there has been an increase in the number of successful applications made to the discretionary fund. Although the total number of applications has remained steady throughout the past few semesters, the number of applications which were given a grant has risen through the past four semesters, with an increase of 33% between last semester and a year previous.
Although the total number of applications has remained steady throughout the past few semesters, the number of applications which were successful has risen through the past four semesters, with an increase of 33% being awarded between last semester and a year previous. The increase in students receiving some form of grant may be a potential cause of the amount of individual grants reducing.
The Discretionary Fund is designed to help support students struggling with living expenses. Students who apply must do so at the beginning of each semester, providing a recent bank statement and an explanation of their circumstances. Students are then assessed on a case-by-case basis and the amount awarded varies depending on personal circumstance. It is often the first place students facing financial difficulties are directed to, yet assessments can take up to four weeks.
This news comes after a damning new cost-of-living report published by NUS Scotland last month. Based on an online survey conducted in November 2022 (which consulted 5,306 college and university students) researchers found that 52% of students were forced to skip a meal because of a lack of money. Furthermore, they found that the percentage of students who use a food bank has increased from 8% to 11% between January and November 2022.
The University spokesperson went on to say: “In the year to date, we have awarded over £1.5m of discretionary funding to around 600 students. We anticipate that we will disburse the balance of c. £0.2M over the remaining few months of the academic year.
“We have increased the funding available to students in hardship and will continue to do what we can to support all those who are impacted by the rapid rise in the cost of living.”