Thousands of students left to struggle without SAAS payments

Halfway through term, thousands of Scottish students have still not received payments used to cover essential living costs from Student Awards Agency for Scotland, as reported by the BBC.

As of the 31st of October, a total of 5,396 applications were still to be processed by the agency. According to the Scottish government, all of the applications had been submitted after the deadline of June the 30th and that the vast majority of these ‘late applications’ had been submitted in September or October.

However, many cases of not receiving payments despite submitting applications before the correct deadline have been reported. SAAS said they had invested in new technology to make the system more efficient and believed that anyone who had sent in their application before June 30th would have received their payment by now.

SAAS has revealed it is receiving up to 1,000 calls a day from students among the 151,000 original applicants. In a letter to universities it also revealed it is so overwhelmed with calls, two weeks ago it started closing the phone lines entirely one day a week. Students are put in a difficult position of often waiting on hold for more than half an hour and some cannot even apply for emergency funding from their university, due to the application being stuck in SAAS, therefore making the students ineligible, as they are formally already receiving support.

SAAS have now extended the opening hours of their phone lines and have reportedly added new staff to help process the neglected applications.

The situation has caused shock and outrage in many student groups and unions. The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland president Robin Parker commented: “Students who have not received support funding have every right to be upset, and are absolutely right to expect a better level of service. Many students rely on this funding to afford their education, and could struggle to remain at university without this much needed support. If we want to retain students and prevent dropout, we must give students the support they need, and in a timely fashion.

He added: 
”Despite the understandable frustration that students have had getting through to SAAS, their staff are no doubt working hard in what are difficult circumstances to process funding applications as quickly as possible.” He also called for the Scottish government to further investigate the roots of this problem and encouraged students to seek help from their universities.

Universtiy of Strathclyde Student Association (USSA) presidents Malcolm Moir said: “The Students’ Association is shocked that SAAS has not finished processing all applications for this academic year.  Students require this money to help them afford University, whether they are spending it on accommodation, education supplies or food.  Students do not use SAAS for disposable income – they use it to live while studying.  Many students rely on this financial support and the Association are disappointed that some students are not receiving any support and that this has put their education at risk.

“We understand that SAAS are working hard to resolve this issue and that they are dealing with a new administration system.  However, it is important that the reasons behind this issue are identified and fixed as soon as possible.”

All Strathclyde students facing problems with SAAS payments are encouraged to contact ASK (the student support services on Level 5 of the Union) or Student Finance in the McCance building.


The exact number of Strathclyde students facing problems with SAAS payments is currently unknown. However, some students have agreed to share their SAAS horror-stories with the Strathclyde Telegraph:

“Having not received my results for the academic year, I applied for this year’s fees early due to pressure from constant “deadline” emails from SAAS.  Upon receiving my results I found out I had performed enough to be transferre to the Masters branch of my course.  Eventually, in between a heavy work schedule, I managed to sit down to try sort out appropriate funding.

Between calling and looking on the website I eventually found the appropriate forum with which to make the change; a message box that requires an email address for return correspondence.  This then sent me a 30 day response notice.  This was august.  I have still not received a reply, and therefore am not receiving the full funding for this year.

Due to the nature of my query I have not been able to call and speak to someone due to the automated queue organiser kicking me out of the caller queue.  This issue would be resolved faster if I had been able to talk to someone on the other end of a line.”


– Chris


“After having problems with SAAS last year (they tried to give me a loan when I had specifically requested that I just wanted the bursary) I made sure that my application was sent away well before the deadline date of 30th June. Having done this I thought everything was fine until I received a letter, on the 22nd August 2012, requesting that I tell them how much income I would be receiving during this academic year from a pension fund, information I had already correctly given them in the online form. I then tried to contact them to ask what I was to do and due to the ‘high number of calls’ I wasn’t able to speak to anyone until the 12th of September. At this point I was advised to email the info back to SAAS and it would be processed as soon as possible.

When I didn’t receive any payment or notice from them after the first payment date I called them back, where I was then informed that as I had emailed them back it had delayed my application and that it would be 30 working days from the day that I had sent the email, meaning that I would have to wait until the 30th of October to have it looked at as they were dealing with application info from emails on the 30th of August and if I hadn’t heard anything by then I was to call them and they would speed up my application, which I was fine with. After receiving no contact of any kind from them I called them once more yesterday morning to ask about my application and see if they could speed it up, at which point they said that I wasn’t part of the new applications categories and instead I was in a section where they were dealing with replies to their enquiries and that they were only up to the 14th of August and that they would ‘AIM’ to get to my application by the end of November and even after explaining that all of the information that I had originally put into the application was correct they said there was nothing they could do as ‘it wasn’t fair to other students’.

This all leaves me in the situation of a very bleak November trying to scrape by on what little money I have left in my personal accounts.”


– Anon

“My SAAS story this year is….

 Living with a partner last year and got full funding, no problems.  I got a letter in January saying my partner had to send his P60’s in.  I phoned them to say I was a single person again and they said I would be asked for this year to provide proof for funding.  I applied on 7th June and I was not asked to provide proof!

I got a letter in August saying I had to provide proof that I was a single person living by myself and would receive the minimum load £980 until i had done this, so I sent my Council Tax Excemption away (oh and it went to SLC in England by mistake by the way) and I got a letter saying this was not good enough as it states (Glasgow City Council)  “This property is solely occupied by STUDENTS” as it says “Students” and not “student” this was not acceptable, that I would have to supply a letter from a professional person stating that I was now single.

To my horror, I found this incredibly difficult as I had moved from Ayr at the start of my first year to Glasgow, then 2 weeks into my course I split up with my then partner, so nobody in Glasgow knew my circumstances and nobody in Ayr knew my circumstances.  This was a nightmare.  I called SAAS to explain, they were not helpful at all at this time.  I asked, surely someone else has experienced something similar to me and they replied that they treat every application separately (which makes me think there is a load of wee guys in various offices just ticking boxes and not really thinking about the consequences and its not consistent).

Eventually I found someone to write a letter for me (at beginning of October) and I set the letter off (on 2nd Oct) and I visited the SAAS offices in Edinburgh personally on 12th October to ask what was happening as I was getting annoyed.  They had not received my letter yet (I must admit the guy Gary on the desk could not have been nicer).  I called on the 18th and my letter had been scanned into my account on 14th Oct!  I was then told it could be up to another 30 days (six weeks) until I would hear anything.

I personally find this a joke.  As a Mature Student I have a home to keep, bills to pay etc…. and I get £98 per month, like that is going to help!  The crazy thing is that I am not entitled to any more or less money than last year due to my circumstances changing, it’s all just paperwork that needs done!  It’s really frustrating.

I’m sure you’ve heard so many stories about how awful the system is, I really feel for the staff getting the abuse, it’s just a joke.

Since students haven’t got their loans, are they entitled to hardship at their institutions?  I am very lucky and have a part time job and get Working Tax Credits, but it’s still a struggle, I would have had to go homeless and pulled out of Uni if I never had that job.  The system is all wrong, just like most of the systems in Britain to be honest.”

 – Sheila

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