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Scottish colleges meet to help their poorest students

Student support staff and Bursary officers from all 43 colleges in Scotland will meet today to discuss how the country’s poorest students can be supported more effectively.

The conference, which is being held at the University of Sterling, has been called because the Westminster-administered welfare system and Holyrood-administered student support system have moved further apart since devolution. This has caused many students who claim benefits to find they are actually worse off in education than out of it.

College students are particularly affected as they find themselves, on average, poorer than their University equivalents, with nearly one fifth of all College students in receipt of benefits. They now face up to nine separate income streams, with the average HNC/D student getting by on a household income of just £18,000.

Anne Maguire, MP for Stirling and former Minister for Disabled People, is due to attend the conference to help it consider how the UK Government’s welfare system changes will interact with the current system of student support in Scotland. Delegates will also consider how to ease the strain on staff time that the current system imposes, particularly on staff work working in student support departments.

The acting chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Colleges, Howard McKenzie, said: "We are really pleased to welcome Anne Maguire MP to the conference today, as Support for students on benefits is an issue that is relevant at Westminster as well as Holyrood.

"The ASC is proposing the introduction of a bursary system instead of the current student loans system, which would mean that benefits no longer clash so badly with the Scottish student support system. It is really important that we gather as much support for this proposal as possible in both London and Edinburgh, so that we can make the necessary changes to make life better for Scotland’s poorest students."

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