Research into the financial behaviour of further education students in Scotland

SQW was commissioned to contribute to the evidence base and inform the Scottish Government's response to the 2016 independent review into student support and its subsequent recommendation that student loans be made available to students in further education.

Our research into the demand for, and potential impact, of student loans in further education has recently been published by the Scottish Government. The findings reflect the student voice of 169 students who attended focus groups held in 11 college regions across Scotland and over 2,300 student responses to an online survey.

There is a clear demand for student loans from FE students. Almost half of all students surveyed would be 'very likely' to take out a student loan if it was available. Higher demand was reported among parents and lone parents, who also tended to report facing more financial barriers to access college, and students aged 45 – 54 years old.

Some of the suggested impacts of introducing student loans included reducing the levels of poverty currently experienced by some FE students, allowing students to work fewer hours while they were studying, and providing an incentive for older adults to return to education to upskill or reskill.

Students who were unlikely to take out a student loan if they were eligible were individuals from care-experienced backgrounds (who tended to be more debt averse) or students living in more affluent areas (who tended not to need additional finance). Around a quarter of students felt they needed more information to inform their decision either way.

For more findings on all the research questions, the current sources of financial support used by FE students and the financial profile of the student group involved in the research, the full report can be downloaded here.