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Student graduation day at the University of Glasgow. Pictures by Bill Heaney

By Democrat reporter

A report published this week by Audit Scotland has laid bare the shocking levels of debt and inequality that plague higher education in Scotland.

The report shows that:

  • The average loan debt per student on entry into repayment in 2019 was £13,800, 130 per cent higher than 2010/11, when it was £6,000.
  • SAAS authorised 100,600 students for a living-cost loan in academic year 2018-19 at a total cost of £533.6 million, representing an increase of 185 per cent since 2008-09, when £187 million in living cost loans was authorised.
  • The average loan per student rose from £2,420 in 2008-09 to £5,300 in 2018- 19.
  • Analysis by SAAS indicates that in 2018-19, students from the 20 per cent most deprived (SIMD) areas borrowed, on average, more than those from the least deprived areas (£5,800 compared to £4,960).
  • As the total value of loans has increased, so has the overall outstanding debt. In Scotland, total debt increased from £2.5 billion in 2011 to an eye-watering £5.5 billion in 2019, an increase of 120 per cent.

Baillie 8Dumbarton and Lomond constituency MSP Jackie Baillie, left, said:  “When the SNP came to power they promised to “Dump the Debt Monster”.  Instead they slashed student grants and bursaries and looked on as students from West Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute were forced into borrowing more to survive.

 “The facts speak for themselves. Student debt has soared to £5.5 billion, more than double what it was in 2011, and the average individual debt level on entry into repayment has more than doubled.

“Particularly worrying is the fact that it is students from the most deprived areas that are having to borrow the most, leaving them with more debt than students from more privileged areas.

“If we are to judge the First Minister on her record on education, or on her promises to West Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute students, then she has failed the test. Students deserve to leave higher education with qualifications, not crippling debt”.


Sally Magnusson presents the degrees at Glasgow Caledonian University.


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