The amount of financial support paid to students by the Scottish Government has risen to record levels, new figures show.

Latest statistics show 143,110 students received support in 2016-17, up from 141,000 the previous year.

In total, £834.8 million was paid in bursaries and grants, fees or authorised in loans for the 2016-17 session, an increase of 3.6% from 2015-16, when it was £805.8 million.

Loading article content

The average support per student in the 2016-17 session was £5,830, up 1.9% since 2015-16 when the average was £5,720.

Higher education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said: "Higher education in Scotland is based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.

"I very much welcome these figures, which show this government is investing a record amount in student support - up 3.6% to £834.8 million last year.

"As a result, more students are benefiting from free tuition and the maximum level of grant.

"We are also seeing more students from the most-deprived backgrounds entering higher education."

The Scottish Government said almost 3,000 additional students qualified for a non-repayable bursary or saw their funding increase as a result of the income threshold being raised from £17,000 to £19,000 last year.

There was also an increase in the number of students receiving support through the nursing and midwifery bursary scheme, from 8,780 in 2015-16 to 8,915 in 2016-17.

One in ten of those receiving financial support was European Union (EU) students studying in Scotland.

In total, 14,785 EU students were supported in 2016/17, which is 10.3% of the total number of students supported by Student Awards Agency Scotland.