Scots awards review

January 23, 1998

Scottish education minister Brian Wilson has announced a review of the Scottish Awards Agency for Scotland in the wake of a fiasco which left thousands of further and higher education students waiting months for their grants.

An SAAS spokesman said this week that all outstanding applications had been processed, but some students had not received an award letter since the agency needed more information. The delays have been blamed on a new computer system.

The SAAS will next year be responsible for the new system of student support. Mr Wilson said it was therefore crucial to review its processes "to ensure they are tailored to meet the needs of students, their parents and institutions".

Gerald Wilson, secretary of the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department, will chair the 11-member steering committee, which includes representatives of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, the Association of Scottish Colleges, and the National Union of Students Scotland, the Bank of Scotland, General Accident and Standard Life.

Shamin Akhtar, president of NUS Scotland, praised the Scottish Office for launching the review.

"But we're very wary, and not very confident in SAAS being able to have the system up and running for next year."

Yvonne Harley, student president of Falkirk College, where 160 students were last week still waiting for grant cheques, was also sceptical. "It's been the worst year of my life. We just had lists and lists and lists of people with no grants. They were in tears, we were in tears. We had to write to landlords who were threatening to kick them out."

She is certain that some students have dropped out because of the financial pressures.

"The final figures won't be known until the end of the session, but you just don't see some of the faces you used to," she said.

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