Budget 24/25: Cuts to colleges and universities undermine the welcome boost in student support

Budget 24/25: Cuts to colleges and universities undermine the welcome boost in student support

After the Scottish Government published its draft budget statement for 2024/25, NUS Scotland has welcomed the recent increase in student finance for HE students - but warned the continued underfunding of the sector is having dire consequences.

While welcoming the recent announcement of a £2,400 rise in student support for university students, NUS Scotland said that underfunding of universities and colleges is an increasingly acute issue – as this year’s Budget revealed a cash-terms cut to both HE and FE. 
This academic year, universities have received £7,610 for each Scottish student - that’s around 19% less in real terms than in 2013–14, according to the IfS. 

Meanwhile, colleges are facing an even more severe strain – as outlined in the Auditor General’s recent report on colleges. With staff numbers and learning provision already being cut, combined with a £321m maintenance backlog, cuts to college funding will only exacerbate the problem. 

Commenting, NUS Scotland President Ellie Gomersall said: 

“Over the past year, we’ve been highlighting the cost of survival crisis faced by students and apprentices across Scotland, and the recently announced £2,400 increase in university student finance is very welcome – although we await the announcement of the same support extended to further education students. 
While this win brings relief to many struggling university students, we’re concerned that the continued underfunding of higher and further education undermines that progress.

It’s good to see that the wealthiest in society will make a slightly larger contribution in tax, but this is a drop in the ocean when essential public services like education have faced real-terms cuts for years.

For many years, university and college budgets have been eroded in real terms – and this time, we’re seeing cash terms cuts, which will be disastrous. 

Many colleges are on the brink. This will have dire consequences for students who have already seen cuts to teaching staff and cuts to teaching provision, particularly for those in our poorest communities.

This Budget also fails to provide any certainty on long-term funding for student mental health, which is in crisis, exacerbated by the spiraling costs of living. As students are stuck on long waiting lists and institutions can’t properly plan counsellor provision, we urgently need a sustainable settlement. 

If the government is genuinely serious about tackling poverty and inequality, it should make education a priority, reverse this spiral of cuts, and invest in an education system that works for all students and apprentices.”

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