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Scottish Government Criticised for Underfunding Higher Education as Budget Shows Deep Cuts

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The IfS report on Higher Education funding in the Scottish Budget, released today, shows how the Scottish Government is undervaluing and underfunding the education system – leaving a mounting and negative impact on Scotland’s students says NUS Scotland.

The Scottish Government has boosted support for students’ living costs from September through increasing the amount students can borrow by £2,400 a year. Graduates, on average, are set to repay two-thirds of this additional loan, with the UK government meeting the cost of the remaining third in the long run as unpaid loans are eventually written off and paid for by the UK taxpayer. But boosting funding for universities’ teaching costs – which has already fallen by 19% in real terms per student over the last decade – is likely to be much more challenging. Indeed, the 2024–25 Budget announced a further 3.6% cut in funding.

The report notes that in the last academic year universities received 19% less in real terms per student than they did in 2013–14. Students and staff alike have felt the impact of this continuous underfunding and are struggling.

Instead of reversing this decline, the report outlines that the Scottish Government is planning cash-terms cuts of 6% to HE funding. These short-sighted cuts will have a devastating impact on Scotland’s future and bring into question the government’s priorities. The Scottish Government’s stated goal of tackling poverty is incompatible with their choice to sell out students’ futures.

In response to the planned cuts to both higher and further education in the upcoming budget, which total over £100million, NUS and Trade Unions are standing in solidarity and rallying outside the Scottish Parliament tomorrow (21 February).

Commenting, NUS Scotland President Ellie Gomersall said:

“The Scottish Government tells us that tackling poverty and reducing inequality is one of their primary goals – but this report lays bare the falsehood in that assertion.

A well-funded education system is vital to a fairer, more equal and prosperous Scotland, but funding has fallen year after year and now the government is fanning the flames of their neglect with huge cuts in the recent budget.

Students and staff alike are clear that these cuts cannot be allowed to go ahead. The government needs to invest in our future, not sell it off. We’ll be rallying outside parliament tomorrow and they will hear our message: they must stop the cuts to our education.”

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