‘UK’s best student support package’: but no help for less well-off DPLP students

Michael Russell MSP

The Scottish Government recently announced what Education Secretary Michael Russell called ‘the best funding package available in the UK’.  The press release for the announcement gives more details:

On top of current benefits such as free tuition, the new package, to be introduced in 2013 includes:

  • An annual minimum income of £7,250, through a combination of bursaries and loans, for students with a family income of less than £17,000.
  • All students, irrespective of circumstances, will be eligible for a student loan of £4,500 a year – as requested by NUS Scotland who want to see more cash in student pockets.
  • Part-time students with a personal income of less than £25,000 will now receive full support for tuition fees as a proportion of the full-time fee equivalent.

Mr Russell is quoted as saying:

We know that studying at university costs money and that this can put some people off from applying. That is why I have worked with our partners, including NUS Scotland, to review our system of student support.

A minimum income of £7,250 will be available to those from the lowest income households and I expect this will benefit around 45,000 students each year….[This] will help ensure that all those with potential can go to university and achieve their goals, in turn playing a key role in improving our economy in years to come.

This announcement is very welcome. It is extremely good news for undergraduates and can only help encourage more young people, especially those from less well-off backgrounds, to be able to study at undergraduate level. It also represents a very significant financial investment by the government in student support.

But, for less well-off students hoping to enter the legal profession, the announcement is ultimately disappointing. No thought appears to have been to improving support for DPLP students so they can afford to study the course they need to qualify as lawyers. This will remain the preserve of their better-off peers.

The government has said that ‘tough choices’ must be made on priorities for student support. But it will be galling for less well-off law graduates that the ‘tough choices’ that have been made include the announcement that:

All students, irrespective of circumstances, will be eligible for a student loan of £4,500 a year – as requested by NUS Scotland who want to see more cash in student pockets.

So, even the richest undergraduate students will benefit significantly: their minimum loan increases from less than £1,000 to well over £4,000. The government has also chosen to improve support for those training for other professions. Vet students will automatically benefit from improvements to the undergraduate package, as will postgraduate architecture students and trainee teachers (as discussed here). Medical and dental students are also considered:

medical and dental students will benefit from the main undergraduate support arrangements for the duration of their study – usually a five year programme that previously involved less generous support arrangements in the fifth year.

Mr Russell’s announcement was made at the University of Glasgow’s REACH programme, a widening participation initiative that works with schools who have historically sent proportionately low numbers of pupils into university. It works with secondary school pupils to raise awareness, encourage, supports and prepare those with the potential to study Dentistry, Law, Medicine and Veterinary Science through their application process.

Those REACH students aspiring to become dentists, doctors and vets can rightly celebrate the improved support announced by Mr Russell. And it may encourage and enable more REACH students to study law as undergraduates. But for those who aspire to turn their law degree into a career in law, the announcement does nothing to remove the financial hurdles in their way. And it does nothing to promote the important task of creating a more diverse and representative legal profession, legal system and judiciary.

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One Response to ‘UK’s best student support package’: but no help for less well-off DPLP students

  1. Pingback: Welcome to the DPLP | basedrones

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