Widening Access to HE in Scotland

Impact Area: Higher Education, Equal Opportunities

Institution: University of Strathclyde; University of Glasgow

Leading Academic: Professor Fiona Wilson FBAM, Professor Chris Warhurst, Professor Andy Furlong (late)


Entering Higher Education (HE) can be difficult for some students due to financial hurdles. A team of researchers from the Adam Smith Business School and Strathclyde Business School, including Professor Fiona Wilson FBAM, Professor Chris Warhurst, and the late Professor Andy Furlong, looked into the financial difficulties faced by students in Scotland by studying the income, expenditure and debt of over 15,000 HE students. The researchers looked at existing data, used three separate surveys (both postal and online) to obtain quantitative data and then interviewed 50 full-time HE students from working class backgrounds to obtain qualitative data about the impact of financial provision on their lives. The research was funded by the Scottish Government Social Research Department.


Benefits and Impacts

The researchers found that independent students, who were usually mature students and those with children, faced the greatest hardships. Mature students and those with dependent children had the highest expenditure and also the highest debt. The researchers showed that students from working class families had higher debt than their middle-class peers and that this was often commercial debt. Financial problems lay behind some students considering leaving their courses early. Most students had paid employment to ease their financial situation, but they often worked long hours, more than the limit of 10 hours per week recommended in the Cubie Report.

The Scottish Government acknowledged that the team’s findings influenced its decision to provide an additional £30m package of Higher Education support from 2010-11, which also included a new grant for independent students of up to £1000. Janette Hagerstrom from the Scottish Government said:

In general, SIED (Student Income, Expenditure and Debt) has been a useful reference tool to policy colleagues for the specific evidence it contains regarding funding, childcare and hardship issues for both FE and HE students. A specific example of where it was used was to provide evidence was for Supporting a Smarter Scotland: A consultation on supporting learners in higher education. SIED was particularly useful for considering support for independent students (often mature students) and as such helped to influence the outcome of the Consultation. The result of the Consultation was the announcement in October 2009 of an additional £30m package of HE support from 2010-11. This new funding package includes a new grant for independent students of up to £1000.


References to the research

Warhurst C, Furlong A, Commander J, Findlay J, Hurrell S, Nickson D, Symeonides A and Wilson F (2009) 'Higher and Further Education Students' Income, Expenditure and Debt in Scotland 2007-08', Scottish Government: Edinburgh ISSN 0950 2254 ISBN 978-0-7559-7577-8

Publication available on line at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/06/24115743/0

2.Warhurst C, Furlong A, Commander J, Findlay J, Hurrell S, Nickson D, Symeonides A and Wilson F (2009)'Higher and Further Education Students’ Income, Expenditure and Debt in Scotland 2007-08 (Research Findings No.49)', Social Research, Scottish Government ISBN 978-0-7559-7578-5

3.McLeod, F. (2009) We don't need fresh review of university funding, insists SNP, The Scotsman, Education section. Thursday, October 29, 2009. In this article Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary is citing evidence drawn from our research in the Scottish Parliament to back the government’s decision to increase funding to students.

4.Denholm, A. (2009) £30m to help students hit by recession loans to be increased up to £442, The Herald, Thursday October 29th. This article too discusses Fiona Hyslop drawing evidence from our study to support the decision to increase the financial package for students.

5.Evening Times (Glasgow) (2009) Government to focus on student plight, Thursday, October 8th. This article announces the government plans.