West Lothian College Students Want Government to Invest in Education
Last week, as hundreds protested against student poverty and funding cuts outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, students at West Lothian College held their own rally at the Livingston campus to highlight their concerns about the cuts.
The rally for education in Edinburgh was organised by the National Union of Students in an appeal to government not to go ahead with cuts of nearly £24 million next year for colleges across Scotland.
The West Lothian College Student Association argues that, with the cost of living increasing, students need more support not less. They believe that colleges need funding that lets them give students support when and where it is needed.
For example, to address digital exclusion, the college has used extra funding this year to loan laptops to students that enable them to learn online when required. Additional student support funding this year has enabled the college to offer winter fuel payment to students experiencing fuel poverty.
The association is particularly worried that the funding available this year to help students facing mental health problems looks likely to be cut next year. With additional funding this year, the college has increased support for students, including employing dedicated counsellors and other staff to support student mental health and wellbeing.
In a survey carried out in November last year, students told the Student Association that the support they receive from the college is vital to their achievement. The worry is that the cuts proposed for next year will lead to some of these vital services being withdrawn.
Jeannette Dobson, President of the West Lothian College Student Association said
“Our message to the government is – invest in us by investing in our education! Coming to college transformed my life and I want other people in West Lothian to have the chance to study at our great college. Financial and mental health support measures help students stay on course and achieve their qualifications. I really hope the government will not take away the funding they gave to colleges this year.”
President of NUS Scotland, Matt Crilly said:
“It is devastating that the Scottish Government has delivered real terms budget cuts at this time, when students at college need more support, not less. With over two thirds of students experiencing mental ill health as a result of financial challenges, the Government’s decision to cut college budgets risks taking away vital support students rely on.”
West Lothian College Principal Jackie Galbraith said:
“While the Scottish Government faces enormous pressures in funding critical public services, cutting back on college funding doesn’t make sense. Colleges have never been more essential in tackling the effects of the pandemic and Brexit on jobs and changes in the economy.”