A minimum income for students would help guarantee stronger financial support for those at university and college, Scottish Labour has said.
The proposals were initially outlined in an independent report for the Scottish Government published in November 2017, titled: ‘A New Social Contract for Students – Fairness, Parity and Clarity’.
It set out a number of recommendations on how financial support for students could be enhanced, including providing parity for those accessing funding, increasing clarity by moving to a centralised online portal, as well as the introduction of a minimum income.
The income would be delivered through a mixture of bursaries and student loans, and would be set at a minimum figure of £8,100.
Despite its support for the ‘New Social Contract’ for students, Scottish Labour has accused the Scottish Government of ‘watering down’ its acceptance of the report’s recommendations.
The party has said that it will this week move to force a vote in the Scottish Parliament on the implementation of a minimum income.
Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray said: “Financial support for students at university and college has been overlooked for too long in the political debate – it is time for that to change.
“Labour supports free tuition but students need to be able to access decent financial support when they actually get to college and university.
“That’s why Labour would implement the New Social Contract, which provides a minimum student income.
“It’s now down to other parties to either back our plans or explain to Scotland’s students why not.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We support the ambition outlined in the Student Support Review to achieve a minimum income for our students.
“We have begun to implement this by increasing the care-experienced bursary to £8,100 per year.
“From 2019/20, we are increasing bursary support for students in both further and higher education and increasing the higher education bursary threshold from £19,000 to £21,000, ensuring that more students will be able to access the maximum bursary.
“Overall, we continue to invest record amounts in student support with over 120,000 undergraduates each year studying in Scotland benefiting from free tuition.
“Higher education students from the least well off backgrounds benefit from a minimum income guarantee of £7,625 per year and in further education, students can access a bursary of up to £4,247 per year.
“And we continue to keep university free from tuition fees, ensuring access to higher education is based on the ability to learn and not the ability to pay.”