Mike Russell under fire as cash fails to reach thousands of students
PRESSURE is growing on education secretary Mike Russell to explain why thousands of students have still not received payments to help with living expenses despite being half way through the university term.
• 6,000 applications for support not yet processed by SAAS
• Scottish Government agency struggling to deal with enquiries
• Claims system is in state of ‘chaos’
There are claims the support system is in “chaos” with about 6,000 students still waiting for loans and bursaries.
Student leaders have called for an inquiry into the delays, while the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, asked the education secretary for an “urgent” update. Mr Russell is currently visiting schools in Malawi, but there are growing calls from opposition parties for the minister to address the Scottish Parliament over the issue.
Government said about 6,000 applications had yet to be processed by its agency, the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). The Scottish Government said all the unprocessed applications are those received after the 30 June deadline, the “vast majority” of which were received in September and
Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government needs to investigate why students will still be waiting for their support payments in November, and look very closely at providing the additional resources SAAS would need to process applications quicker.”Craig Angus, a member of Glasgow University’s Student Representative Council, said the system was in “chaos”, with students being asked to resend their details to SAAS.
SAAS has revealed it is receiving up to 1,000 calls a day from students among 151,000 original applicants. Labour’s education spokesman Hugh Henry said: “The silence of SNP ministers on this issue is telling. Mike Russell needs to come clean and tell students and the Scottish Parliament just what is going on at SAAS. He should make an urgent statement to the Scottish Parliament and tell students when this will be sorted out.”
Lib Dem education spokesman Liam McArthur added: “The education secretary should make an urgent statement to parliament to provide clarity on this developing situation. I also think NUS Scotland are right to call for an investigation. The education secretary must explain how he managed to fail thousands of students.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “All applications received before the deadline on 30 June were processed before the student’s course began.
“New and corrected applications continue to be received daily and are being dealt with as a matter of urgency.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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