The National Union of Students Scotland claims the proposals could solve the problem without requiring contributions from Scottish students or increasing tuition fees for students from elsewhere in the UK.
Cuts to public funding for higher education are being accompanied by an increase in the cap on tuition fees in England, but in Scotland, where opposition to fees remains strong, there are concerns that the cuts could lead to a funding gap of up to £200 million a year.
In an analysis published today, NUS Scotland outlines options that it says could contribute £118 million a year to the Scottish higher education system.
These include diverting funding from elsewhere in the education budget to support 15,000 part-time students; establishing 5,000 “fast-track” degrees for college students who have studied at HNC and HND level; and reducing dropout rates to the same levels as in England.
The NUS Scotland also claims that when higher levels of research funding for Scotland are taken into account, the potential funding gap reduces by almost £50 million a year.
Liam Burns, president of NUS Scotland, said: “Now that the vast majority of Scottish parties are clearly against fees, we need to look urgently at how we can improve the financial help we offer our poorest students. Protecting the number of people that get a chance to go to college and university must also be high on any party’s agenda.”