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Number of Students Applying for Hardship Fund Continues to Fall

News Comes in Spite of Ongoing Cost of Living Crisis


By Clive Davies

Photo by The Gaudie


The number of students applying to the university for financial assistance appears to have fallen despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, according to data received by The Gaudie through a Freedom of Information request.


Based on the figures, the total individual applications for discretionary funding dropped from 1,720 in the 2020-2021 academic year to 1,354 in 2021-2022, representing a decline of 21.2%. As of March 15th, the 2022-2023 academic year had seen just 395 applications, which, if it remained unchanged, would correspond to a significant decrease of over 70%. However, it is anticipated that the number of applications will continue to grow as the academic year progresses.


The University has also observed modest improvement in the ratio of accepted and rejected applications. During the 2020-21 academic year, 1,466 applications were approved from a total of 1,720, resulting in an acceptance rate of 85.2%. The subsequent year witnessed a slight increase in the acceptance rate to 85.5%, with 1,159 successful applications out of 1,354. The current year has experienced a significant uptick in the acceptance rate, as 88.3% of applications have been accepted so far, amounting to 349 out of 395.


However, a significant decline in the amount of money distributed has also been observed. £1,457,370.38 was administered in 2020-21, an average of £994 per recipient. 2021-22 saw £851,689.16 spent, an average of £734. So far £217,681.56 has been distributed in 2022-23, an average of £623 per successful application.


The decline of the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly been a contributing factor in the decline of applications. In 2021-22, 63% of applications were for SAAS’ temporary COVID fund, reserved specifically for students impacted financially by the pandemic. Nevertheless, when the 860 COVID fund applications are excluded from the 2021-22 total, the remaining figure of 494 is still higher than the 395 applications recorded for the 2022-23 academic year thus far. It is uncertain whether this will remain the case at the end of the current academic year.


While SAAS has not made any new funding available for Scottish universities to distribute in 2022-23, the Scottish government recently announced that financial support available to undergraduate students will rise by £900 from the start of the 2023-24 academic year. Students from low income households will see their maximum support package rise from £8,100 to £9,000 per year, while the ceiling for all student loan applications is uplifted by £900.


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