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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 17:01 GMT
Scottish students 'in less debt'
Degree students
Scottish degree courses usually last four years
Students in Scotland have lower levels of spending and income but also have less debt than students in England and Wales, a survey has found.

The Scottish Executive report suggests that students were likely to graduate with 2,740 less debt than their English and Welsh counterparts.

It found undergraduates earned almost a third of their income from paid work.

But the Scottish Executive said it had increased the money available through bursaries to less well-off students.

A survey of 1,500 UK undergraduates released on Wednesday found the chances of a high-class degree were lowered if a student worked during term time.

Debt differential

The new Scottish report was written by Professor Claire Callender from South Bank University, the Policy Studies Institute and NOP.

It looked at incomes and expenditure of Scottish undergraduates studying at both higher education institutions and further education colleges, as well as students studying further education courses.

The report compared levels of debt for Scottish students graduating this year with English and Welsh students who graduated in 2003 - the latest available data.

The researchers questioned 1,317 students from 20 higher education institutions and 20 further education colleges.

The average income of and higher education students was 5,795, of which 40% came from the student support system and 29% from paid work.

But their average expenditure was 6,604. Almost four fifths of higher education students anticipated being in debt by the end of the year compared with almost one fifth of further education students.

Of students graduating from university this year, the average expected debt was 7,561, but a quarter said they owed over 12,000.

However, further education students anticipated average debts of 109.

Support

A large majority of university students surveyed - almost 80% - said they were convinced of the economic returns of their degree.

However, three quarters said employment prospects upon graduation had been a factor in their choice of course, and almost half said the possibility to remain living at home and term-time employment opportunities influenced them.

Higher education courses usually last four years in Scotland but three England and Wales.

But the difference in debt accrued could result from higher bursary levels and lower levels of student loans in Scotland.

In addition, 34% of Scottish students - compared with 19% in England and Wales - live with their parents.

'Put off'

Scottish students studying in Scotland do not pay tuition fees, but after they graduate pay a graduate endowment "in recognition of the higher education benefits they have received", which goes into a student hardship fund.

The amount for courses starting in 2005-06 is 2,145.

The National Union of Students said the shortfall between a student's average unearned income and expenditure demonstrated students did not receive enough support.

Its deputy president, James Alexander, said: "Many prospective students may be put off going into further or higher education by the knowledge they will be facing years of hardship and debt."

But Scottish Executive Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, Nicol Stephen, said: "The findings of this comprehensive study show that we have been making real progress towards making the student support system in Scotland as fair and transparent as possible."

He said funding targeted at low-income students and those with dependants and disabilities was vital to support participation in higher education. The maximum annual grant had been increased to 2,395 and was available to approximately 20,000 students, he said.




SEE ALSO:
Term-time working 'lowers grades'
23 Nov 05 |  Education
Q&A: Student fees
14 Sep 05 |  Education
Debt dogs poor graduates - study
26 Oct 05 |  Education
Fewer Scots set to study at home
19 Oct 05 |  Scotland


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