Budget for better

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#Shaping Scotland’s future
#Budget for better
#When students lead
#Student safety net
#Students deserve better

Lead officer:            
Vonnie Sandlan, NUS President 2016/17
Luke Humberstone, NUS President 2017/18
Liam McCabe, NUS President 2018/20
Matt Crilly, NUS President 2020/22

Often campaigns we run take many years to come to fruition, with incremental improvements delivered year on year, spearheaded by successive presidents. Shaping Scotland’s future and Budget for better are classic examples of this, with our current Cost of learning, Improving student mental health and Students Deserve Better campaigns all able to track their foundations back to these campaigns.

Developed initially as part of the voter registration and get the vote out campaign, as we approached the 2016 Scottish parliament elections, these campaigns aimed to put student finance at the top of any new government agenda and to deliver real cash in the pockets of students.

What we did

The 2016 Scottish Parliament elections saw NUS Scotland call for an independent review of the cost of living support available to Scotland’s students as part of its voter registration and get the vote out campaign. Our voice was heard, resulting in the

Scottish Government commissioning a review in line with NUS Scotland’s priorities.

We highlighted that the support system was broken and asked for a budget for increased bursaries, a better deal for graduates and a budget for mental health support.

NUS Scotland had a seat on the review group but were told there should be “zero additional direct bursary cost to the Scottish Government”.  Throughout the process, we made the case for substantial new investment, and when it came to the consultation, almost 20% of the responses submitted came from Students’ Associations – we were the biggest represented group.

What we achieved

To put it simply we won the argument and ended up with a report that included proposals for investment of up to £123 million in bursary support. In June 2018, a further £21 million in additional funding for students in Scotland was announced by Scotland’s First Minister and NUS’ lobbying also resulted in the Scottish Government’s announcement that all universities and colleges are expected to develop a mental health strategy and ensure services are sensitive to students’ needs. This manifested itself as support for the Think Positive project, which is led by NUS Scotland.

What we’re doing now / next

While the budget for better campaign achieved its aims and much progress has been made, the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare where there are still issue and where further funding is necessary. NUS Scotland’s plan for action 2020/22 is therefore focused on addressing the Cost of learning, Improving student mental health and Students Deserve Better as we approach the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2021.


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