THOUSANDS of students have still not applied for financial support just weeks before the start of the academic year.

Official figures show around 6000 Scottish students have not applied, risking beginning their studies without bursaries or loans.

Last year, there was an uproar when thousands of payments to cover essential living costs had not been made by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (Saas).

There was also anger at the way Saas dealt with applications, although most of them were from students who had missed the deadline.

This year, Education Secretary Michael Russell is keen to avoid a rush of late applications clogging up the system.

"It is good news that a record number of students have already completed their application, but we estimate around 6000 have still to apply and those who have yet to complete their form should do so urgently," he said.

Gordon Maloney, President of student body NUS Scotland, said: "Starting this academic year, students studying higher education in Scotland will be eligible for a much-improved support package, and it's important that students make applying to Saas a priority to avoid any delay in receiving that funding.

"This year we'll be closely monitoring the ­situation and working with Saas to make sure that the changes put in place reduce waiting times and quickly get support funds into students' pockets."

The Scottish Government has invested an additional £2 million to help Saas process applications more quickly in the last year.