Government stats show new loans ‘doing little to widen access’ to DPLP

Figures obtained by CFALP show that, in contrast to the Scottish Government’s prediction that ‘approximately 400’ additional law students would benefit from the increased availability of loans under the newly introduced Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loans (PTFL), only an additional 20 students received loans. 

In August last year, CFALP wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Education asking him to reconsider his decision not to extend student maintenance loans to DPLP students. His response was that ‘limited resources mean that we are not able to reintroduce student loans for living costs to DPLP students, rather we have chosen to use the money available to support more postgraduate students in meeting the cost of tuition fees’. He also explained that, under the new Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan (PTFL) system ‘around 5,000 full and part-time’ could benefit from assistance towards fees. His colleague, Dr Allen, stated in Parliament on 20 September 2012 that ‘approximately 700’ law students would be included in these figures, a predicted increase of 400 on those who benefited under the previous Postgraduate Student Award Scheme (PSAS) grant towards fees.

However, figures obtained by CFALP have shown that only an additional 20 students benefited from PTFL compared to the 300 grants available under the previous PSAS scheme. This pattern appears to be repeated across other non-DPLP courses funded by PTFL with only a total of just over 1500 PTFLs taken up, according to Scottish Government statistics, compared to the 2,700 grants under PSAS. This is in contrast to the predicted increase to 5,000.

Taken with the recent evidence on the lack of socio-economic diversity amongst DPLP students, this evidence confirms the PTFL has made little or no impact on widening access to the DPLP (or, it would seem, to postgraduate education as a whole). It is simply too low in value to make a meaningful difference to those who most need assistance to meet the costs of studying.

On a positive note, the low uptake of the PTFL across all courses suggests that the postgraduate loan budget may be underspent, possibly by more than £10m (This figure is obtained by comparing the total loans for the 1510 loans actually taken compared to the 5,000 predicted). This suggests that a fairer and more progressive support model could be achieved within the existing resources.

Full response

The full response received by CFALP from the Scottish Government’s Education and Learning Directorate is reproduced below. This followed an enquiry regarding the actual take-up of PTFLs by DPLP and other students in 2012/13, the first year of operation of the new system. The total row in Table 1 (in blue) is added for clarity.

Further to your FOI requesting the number of students awarded, and the total value of, Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loans awarded to students, in academic year 2012/13, commencing:

  • The Diploma in Professional Legal Practice – in total and broken down by institution

  • All other courses eligible for Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan – in total

  • I wrote to you on 11 March 2013 advising you that this information was not available. You telephoned and asked what options were available to you and I outlined these on 18 March, you then requested the figures based on the early 2012-13 dataset which was published in last year’s release (correct at October last year).

 Please refer to Table 1 for the information relating to students on Diploma in Legal Practice courses.

 Number of students on Diploma in Legal Practice courses funded through PSAS by institution, 2012-13

Institution

Number of students

Total amount claimed (£’s)

ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY

15

54,400

DUNDEE UNIVERSITY

35

115,600

GLASGOW UNIVERSITY

90

302,600

STRATHCLYDE UNIVERSITY

90

289,100

ROBERT GORDON UNIVERSITY

10

27,200

EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY

80

261,800

Total

320

1,050,700

Note: Student numbers in this table have been rounded up or down to the nearest 5 (e.g. 1, 2 round to 0; 3, 4 round to 5).

 The total number of PSAS students who are not on Diploma in Legal Practice courses in 2012-13 session is 1,190 and they claimed a total of £3,684,542 through the PSAS fee loan scheme. Note that these figures refer to amounts claimed and not entitlement, which may be higher in some cases.

Please note that all statistics quoted in this response are based on an early analysis of 2012-13 session applications, which is published in the statistics publication “Higher Education Student Support in Scotland, 2011-12”, available here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/10/1895/20.

As the response notes, the number of PTFL applications is correct as of 24 October 2012. In theory, applications for the PTFL remained open until 31 March 2013. However, the Universities generally require fees to be paid (including any PFTL contribution) at or before matriculation. As the 2012/13 DPLP courses start in September 2012, it is unlikely that there will be any further applications received after these statistics are provided. Table 7 at the Scottish Government statistics publication referred to above demonstrates that the October figures for all student support for 2012/13 is in line with the expectations from previous figures, providing further evidence of this.

The PTFL, a loan towards fees of £3,400, replaced the Postgraduate Student Award Scheme (PSAS) which provided a grant of the same amount to up to 300 DPLP students. The cost to the Scottish Government of a loan is around one-third the value of the loan, whilst the PSAS grants were funded directly from the Scottish Government budget. The transition to the PTFL and the low uptake of additional funded places together represented a saving to the Scottish Government of nearly £700,000, around two-thirds of the 2011/12 spend on support to DPLP students.

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