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More money available for students
An extra £2 million has been injected into Scotland’s students awards agency (SAAS) to improve delivery of the best ever package of student support in the UK.
The move follows an independent review carried out by David Wallace of the Student Loans Company which was commissioned by the Education Secretary Michael Russell in November 2012 in recognition of the fact that there were issues at SAAS that needed to be addressed.
The £2 million will fund a programme of improvements, some of which are already underway, to deliver the extra £200 million invested to support students this year. They include:
50 new members of staff to handle calls, process applications and help students with their queries. A 200 per cent increase in the number of staff handling calls during peak times;
A new package of student support with a simpler way to apply;
During peak periods, starting June, 3, the SAAS helpline will be open from 0800 in the morning until 1900 at night – an additional day and a half of contact time each week for students;
Revised information targeted at students showing them how to fill out applications correctly;
Putting in place arrangements for student advisors to highlight directly to SAAS any priority cases.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell said:
“Alongside our policy of no tuition fees, the Scottish Government is delivering the best package of support available anywhere in the UK to a growing population of students. To put that money in student pockets, we must have a flexible and efficient system of administering applications that is able to meet the expectations of students.
“Last year we put £580 million into students’ pockets. Where students applied by the deadline, there were very few problems, however, it was clear we took too long processing late and complex applications.
“That’s why I thank David Wallace for his work in carrying out this review which has made a number of recommendations, many of which we have already taken action on, and which we will consider fully as we continue to improve operations at SAAS.
“This year, we have recruited 50 more people to help process applications, extend opening hours, provided more advice and guidance on how to fill out the forms as well as simplifying the system of student support.
“I would encourage all students to take care with their application, to apply on time and access their share of the £778 million that is earmarked for student pockets this year.”
David Wallace, Deputy Chief Executive at the Student Loans Company and author of the review said:
“I believe that the report and its recommendations speak clearly for themselves. I would just like to add my thanks to the steering group and to SAAS for the co-operation given throughout the Review. I am pleased to see additional funding being injected into SAAS to assist with its work for this year and the commitment of the Scottish Government to look closely at the longer term investment to support a sustainable service to students.”
The full report is available here.
SAAS processes applications for around 160,000 students per year.
In 2012, around 1 million calls were made to SAAS.
David Wallace, the author of the review, was supported by a Review Panel that included Robin Parker, President National Union of Students; Daniel Farrell, St Andrew’s University; Bruce Nelson, SAAS Board Member; Katrina Crawford, Reid Kerr College.