Scotland receives Pounds 27.5m advance

October 10, 1997

THE Scottish Office has released an advance payment of Pounds .5 million to higher education institutions in a bid to ease the ongoing student grants fiasco.

And the National Union of Students Scotland is demanding a halt to the introduction of tuition fees next session, saying it has "grave concerns" over the Student Awards Agency Scotland's ability to cope following this year's crisis.

Scottish education minister Brian Wilson has allowed the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council to double its normal October payment to institutions in the wake of delayed student awards, blamed on problems with a new computing system.

This is to compensate for the possible late arrival of tuition fees this month and to enable institutions to help students whose maintenance grants have not arrived. The payment will be clawed back later, possibly in December.

Ronald Crawford, secretary of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, said: "The seriousness of the problem is demonstrated by Brian Wilson's readiness to comply. It is clearly welcome, and is crucial for smaller institutions."

But Shamin Akhtar, president of NUS Scotland, said she feared sufficient funds were not being directed to students suffering hardship. "The Scottish Office should definitely delay any kind of introduction of tuition fees after the problems we have endured this year," she said.

Mr Wilson said: "If individual universities and colleges believe that there are still insufficient funds to meet temporary student hardship, I would be pleased to hear from them."

He expected most grant applications submitted by mid-September to be processed by the end of this month. The SAAS this week said it had received 95,000 applications by mid-September and claimed to have processed 60,000.

But some further education colleges are still reporting a backlog of up to 12 weeks. The Association of Scottish Colleges revealed that 80 per cent of Higher National students in one college were still waiting for their cheques five weeks after their course started.

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