Edinburgh University's students association has claimed that student hardship is at an all-time high, with Edinburgh's 13,500 undergraduates holding a combined debt of Pounds 23 million.
The association's latest random survey of almost 1,500 students, part of a continuous monitoring process since loans were introduced in 1990, shows that by the end of last session, 63 per cent were in debt, owing an average of Pounds 2,600. One in ten of those surveyed had considered dropping out because of financial pressures.
Student president Bob Dalrymple said there would be "a more sinister underpinning" to student hardship in future, with the ceiling on student support forcing students to take on more debt through commercial bodies. This would be much harder to manage than debt through the Student Loans Company, he said.
The survey found that 75 per cent of undergraduates worked last summer, an increase of more than 6 per cent over summer 1996. Most of those not in paid work said course or family commitments made work impossible, others did voluntary work and the rest could not jobs.
More than 31 per cent of students worked during term time last session. Almost 47 per cent of those had worked for the full 30 weeks: the average hours worked was of 13 a week, although this ranged from one hour to 45. The average hourly wage was Pounds 3.95.
More than 28 per cent of those working during term time said work "frequently affected" their attending lectures, compared with 18 per cent two years ago.