FOI reference: FOI/17/02740
Date received: 13 November 2017
Date responded: 4 December 2017
a. Does SAAS currently have an "exceptional cases" policy (whether formal or informal) for use in considering/ assessing cases where applicants fall outside the standard eligibility criteria for entitlement to loan funding and/ or DSA, and/or are asking for "reasonable adjustments" to be made under the Equality Act?
b. If so, when was it formulated, launched and updated?
c. If there is such a policy, where and how can students access information about it?
d. If SAAS does not currently have such a policy, has SAAS ever had such a policy? If so, when was it formulated, launched and updated? When & why was it abandoned?
e. Please provide full details of any and all current/ previous policy documents that have ever existed.
SAAS does not have nor has ever had an "exceptional cases" policy for use in the consideration/ assessment of cases where applicants fall outside the standard eligibility criteria for funding; therefore I cannot answer points b, c and d of your request.
It may be helpful to know that SAAS is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government and our primary function is to deliver SG Higher Education policy. The rules which govern student loans in respect of living- costs are provided by the The Education (Student Loans) (Scotland) Regulations 2007.
The Education (Student Support) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2015 allow for funding in respect of postgraduate courses. The amendment made it clear that the living cost loan arrangements apply to full-time postgraduate students only.
In regards to the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). Our standard operating policy states that in order to be eligible to apply for the DSA, part-time post-graduate students must be undertaking a course at least 50% of the length of the full time course. This guidance is available on the SAAS website at: Notes for DSA Application
In regards to flexibility, we provide guidance to DSA Advisors in our DSA Advisors Guidance document which states:
To be eligible for funding, part-time students must be undertaking at least 50% of the normal length of a full time course and must not take more than twice the normal length of time to complete it. For OU [Open University] students this equates to at least 60 credits.
In exceptional cases we can fund students who have to cut back on their time in one session providing they make up the time in subsequent years and do not take longer than twice the length of the standard course to complete it.
I enclose a copy of the guidance for your information. The guidance is issued to advisors each year and is available from them to access on the SAAS HEI portal, which is an online information hub for staff within institutions. I am unable to answer point c in relation to DSA as the information is disseminated to advisors rather than students.
It should be noted that there is also a formal exceptions process in place for instances during a DSA needs assessment where the institution feels it appropriate to recommend an unusual item of equipment/ support for the applicant. To avoid the application being refused automatically, institutions mark these claims as "exceptional" within the report to SAAS, fully justifying the reasons behind their recommendation.
I cannot answer point d as it is not applicable.
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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House