From education to employment

Scottish Government’s commitment to free tuition is welcome, but we need greater ambition now

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As the Scottish Government publishes its new paper, Building a New Scotland: Education and lifelong learning in an independent Scotland, NUS Scotland welcomes their ‘steadfast commitment to free tuition’ and determination to have Scotland rejoin the Erasmus+ scheme but calls on them to demonstrate ambition and invest in education now.

While the new paper describes Scotland’s colleges and universities as ‘national assets’ the Scottish Government’s budget passed just last month contained devastating cuts of over £100m to their budgets, demonstrating a failure to back up words with action and truly value further and higher education.

In NUS Scotland’s manifesto for the general election, to be published at their national conference this Thursday, the student movement will call for an end to the ‘morally wrong and utterly discredited’ hostile environment and for Scotland to rejoin the Erasmus+ student exchange scheme so welcome similar commitments in this Scottish Government paper.

However, while the paper commits to free tuition to be constitutionally enshrined it falls short of the ambition students need, rather than talking about ‘a student loans system that is bespoke to Scotland’ it is NUS Scotland’s view that Scotland must look to a future in which all student loans are replaced with grants and no one is entering into debt to achieve their right to education.

Commenting, NUS Scotland President Ellie Gomersall said:

“Much of this paper is to be welcomed, for example the commitment to undo the UK government’s extraordinary acts of cultural vandalism in imposing the hostile environment and leaving the Erasmus+ scheme.

However, students desperately need to see greater ambition from the Scottish Government. A better system of loans isn’t enough, we should be looking to a future in which all loans are replaced with grants and no student ever has to enter debt just to realise their potential.

The Scottish Government is right to describe universities and colleges as ‘national assets’, but after just passing devastating funding cuts of over £100m, the Scottish Government needs to put their money where their mouth is and fund education properly. Promises of a better future ring hollow when education is devolved, and students are struggling right now.”

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