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Poorer students to benefit from improved finance support

Scottish medical students from low-income backgrounds will be treated more fairly under plans to offer better financial support, the BMA says.

Scottish education secretary Michael Russell announced yesterday that the Scottish government would ensure a minimum income of £7,250 a year for the poorest students and annual loans of £4,500 for all.

BMA Scottish medical students committee chair Mark McInerney said: ‘Entry to medical school should be based on the ability and aptitude of the student and not on the size of their family’s bank balance.

‘It would be unforgivable if patients and the NHS lost out on the skills of gifted young people from low and middle-income families because they were not able to support themselves through university.’

Mr Russell said he expected the annual minimum income of £7,250 for the poorest students to benefit around 45,000 students each year when the revised arrangements took effect in the 2013/14 academic year.

The minimum income will be a mixture of bursaries and loans for students with family income of less than £17,000 a year.

BMA support

Mr McInerney said BMA Scotland supported the minimum income guarantee, particularly as current evidence showed that medical workforce backgrounds did not reflect Scotland’s diverse population.

He added: ‘If students from the lowest income households are to be encouraged into higher education, then it needs to be affordable and the support available must ensure students can meet their living costs.’

Mr McInerney said the BMA welcomed plans to include fifth year medical and dental students within the mainstream support package. Until now, there have been less generous support arrangements in the fifth year.

He added: ‘This means that the poorest students, who have been disadvantaged under current arrangements, will now be treated more fairly and will have access to more student support when required.’

There are also plans to introduce a ‘plus one’ rule. This will allow students access to an extra year’s funding, over and above the minimum time required to complete their courses. For medical students, this could cover a year’s intercalation.

National Union of Students Scotland president Robin Parker said the announcement was a ‘huge step forward and a victory’ after years of campaigning by students across Scotland.

Mr Russell made his announcement during a visit to Glasgow University’s Reach Scotland team, which helps widen participation in courses that include medicine, dentistry, law and veterinary science.

Read about tuition fees elsewhere in the UK.

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