STUDENTS from the poorest backgrounds are up to £840 worse off year on year due to cuts to bursaries, new figures show.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said changes in student funding, brought in by the SNP government, mean students could face debts of more than £20,000 upon graduation.

Liam McArthur, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "SNP ministers love to boast of free higher education in Scotland, but for those students from poorer backgrounds the truth is rather different.

"Thanks to SNP policy, they are being asked to shoulder more and more of the overall student debt with our figures showing students with a household income of less than £10,000 were worse off to the tune of £840 last year."

The figures also show students from families with a household income of up to £20,000 were £970 worse off compared to the year before, seeing a 39.6 per cent cut to their bursary in just one year.

The attack follows figures published earlier this week which show government spending on student bursaries fell by £35 million in the last financial year, from £100m to £65m.

The SNP have come under increasing pressure in recent months to reverse its 2012 cuts to bursaries and grants, which mean some of the poorest students in Scotland leaving university with more debt.

Education Secretary Michael Russell said the Government stood by its pledge to students to continue to oppose fees by providing free tuition and sufficient support to make sure higher education remained accessible to everyone.