SNP accused of ‘raising the drawbridge’ over bursary cuts
Dental students whose families are on middle incomes will no longer be eligible for grant support after new scheme is introduced
The British Dental Association (BDA) has accused the Scottish Government of backtracking
on its manifesto pledges and cutting off access to dentistry to students whose families are on modest incomes.
The association was reacting to the introduction of the new means-tested Dental Student Support Grant (DSSG), which replaces the Dental Undergraduate Bursary Scheme (DUBS), for students starting dental school this year. The new grant will mean that students whose household earns more than £34,000 would be ineligible for financial support. The DUBS, which was not means-tested, was a universal £4,000 a year from their second year onwards.
The BDA pointed to the fact that the SNP has consistently criticised the UK Government’s abolition of bursaries for nurses and allied health professionals and its 2017 manifesto made promises to attract and retain talented young people to work in the NHS.
It’s a kick in the teeth to the vast majority of students who will spend their professional lives working for the NHS and improving Scotland’s oral health
Paul Blaylock, chair of the BDA’s Students’ Committee
Paul Blaylock, chair of the BDA’s Students’ Committee, said: “The Scottish Government appears to be following Westminster’s lead, and risks raising the drawbridge to the health professions to kids from ordinary families. Dental students will be losing out on up to £16,000 over the course of their degree when their finances are already stretched and debt is rising.
“It’s a kick in the teeth to the vast majority of students who will spend their professional lives working for the NHS and improving Scotland’s oral health. This funding exists because these students face longer term lengths, and significant difficulties juggling their studies with part-time work.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson argued that the DUBS was introduced in 2006 to address the shortfall of dentists, but that the focus had now changed. He said: “Bursary support will now be focused on those from the poorest backgrounds applying to study dentistry, ensuring that students from lower income backgrounds continue to be financially supported and encouraged to study dentistry through a new Dental Student Support Grant.
“Students who commenced their degree course in September 2016, or earlier, will continue to be entitled to the old bursary scheme. Students will also continue to benefit from having their fees paid in Scotland.”