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Help for post-graduate students
Universities are being invited to bid for funding for a pilot scheme which for the first time will provide support for up to 150 part-time post-graduate students in Scotland.
The scheme will help post-graduate students undertake courses during the downturn which support the Government's economic priority sectors - the creative industries, energy, financial and business services, food and drink, life sciences and tourism or the two public sector priority areas health and education. It will also help to assess the impact and feasibility of extending support at postgraduate level to a wider range of part-time students.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, has announced that the Scottish Government aims to treble and expand the Career Development Loans (CDLs) scheme in Scotland. There are similar changes being proposed in England. This will increase the number of learners able to benefit from CDLs in Scotland from around 1,200 each year to up to 3,600 by 2010-11.
This will increase the maximum loan available from £8,000 to £10,000 and enable students to use this to cover up to 100 per cent of their course fees, compared to 80 per cent at present. It is anticipated that the demand for the enhanced scheme will mainly be from post-graduate students, who use CDLs to cover fees for taught courses such as Masters Degrees. It will also offer additional funding for other work-related courses to help people build higher level skills and access re-training opportunities.
Fiona Hyslop said:
"Helping individuals and Scotland's businesses during the current downturn lies at the heart of our Economy Recovery Plan. Key to that recovery is ensuring that individuals are supported to continue to develop their skills so that they can get into work, stay in work and contribute to Scotland's future economic success.
"The part-time post-graduate pilot will help support students who want to undertake courses which will be of particular benefit to Scotland's key economic sectors such as energy, tourism and the creative industries. It will also encourage institutions to offer new, innovative courses which promote employer engagement with universities and courses which contribute to better use of high-level skills in the workplace.
"The extension of the CDL scheme will be an equally beneficial source of help for people wanting to retrain or upskill and who are not otherwise able to access other funding. Around 1,200 Scottish learners currently benefit from CDLs each year and we will work with the UK government to ensure that more Scottish learners - up to 3,600 a year by 2010-11 - are able to make use of this scheme to fund postgraduate study or other vocational relevant courses. "
Dr Janet Lowe, Chair of the Scottish Funding Council's Skills Committee, said:
"The Skills Committee welcomes Ms Hyslop's news on the provision of more financial support for both part-time and full-time postgraduate students. This will extend opportunities for people to develop advanced skills and knowledge that will contribute to the future recovery and success of Scotland's economy.
"The Committee strongly supports the extension of support for part- time students as this will encourage more joint initiatives between universities and employers, which will benefit both students and the economy. The Skills Committee was pleased to be consulted about the government's proposals and welcomes the opportunity to continue to participate in the implementation process, to ensure that we are all pursuing a joined up agenda of benefit to Scotland."
Invites for bids will be sent to all Scottish universities in mid March with a submission deadline of the end of April. We will aim to issue notification of successful bids by the end of May. All applications must demonstrate the relevance of the courses concerned to the Scottish Government's economic priority sectors.
Priority will be given to new or innovative courses which provide clear evidence of employer engagement, either at sectoral level or with individual employers or groups of employers. All bids must also include an assessment of market demand. Priority will be given to courses which can contribute to better use of high-level skills in the workplace, for example by embedding leadership and management skills or by helping to develop knowledge and understanding of innovative business practices.
The part-time pilot will enable the Scottish Government to assess the impact of extending support at postgraduate level to part-time students and will encourage and incentivise the development of more flexible provision at postgraduate level, aligned with government priorities.
CDLs have run as a GB-wide scheme since the 1980s. Individuals can currently apply for loans of between £300 and £8000 from any of three participating banks (Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and the Cooperative Bank). These loans can pay for course fees (currently up to 80 per cent for most people) plus the full cost of books, materials and other related expenses including travel and childcare. Living expenses can also be considered for applicants who do not work more than 30 hours per week.
CDLs cannot generally be used in conjunction with other sources of public funding. CDLs are commercial loans, the lending decision is solely down to the participating banks. The interest rate applied at present is around 10 per cent (the rate varies by participating bank). Discussions are in train with the participating banks with a view to achieving reduced interest rates in the future.
The scheme is currently administered on behalf of DIUS, the Scottish Government (SG) and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). From 2009-10 this responsibility will transfer to the new adult skills agency in England, the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). The CDL budget is held by the LSC and payments for Scottish learners are made directly by the LSC from the GB-wide budget (there are no consequentials).
The LSC pays the interest on the loan for the period of the course and up to one month afterwards. The individual is then responsible for making repayments, including interest. Anyone aged 18 or over and who is ordinarily resident in Great Britain and has an unlimited right to remain in the UK can apply.
In Scotland there are around 1,200 CDL borrowers a year. The average CDL loan for Scottish learners is around £5,500, and Scottish learners mostly use CDL funding to support taught postgraduate courses (eg. Masters degrees).
From September 2009 a number of changes will apply to CDLs to make them more flexible. The ceiling on loans will rise to £10,000 (previously £8,000) and the level of loan finance available will rise to 100 per cent of course fees (previously 80 per cent). Funding will be expanded to support a doubling of the volume of available loans in 2009-10 and a trebling in 2010-11.
For Scotland the changes could mean (subject to learner demand and to bank lending policy) CDL funding being made available for up to 3,600 learners in 2010-11 with available loan funding of up to £36 million, an increase of £26 million on the current potentially available CDL loan finance.