MINISTERS are facing calls to introduce a more generous maintenance grant system to help poor students get into university.

Last night, student leaders and trade unions warned of dangerous levels of debt facing young people.

The National Union of Students also claimed the package of state support was inadequate.

NUS Scotland President Luke Humberstone said the Scottish Government should use its budget on December 14 to increase the level of bursaries and grants.

He said: “While it’s absolutely right that the Scottish Government has maintained their commitment to free tuition, if we want to meet our ambitious targets in widening access we need to see significant investment in bursary support for students."

The trade union, which represents academic staff, said the review should back full maintenance grants for students. Mary Senior, University and College Union (UCU), Scotland official, said: “We are all eagerly awaiting the conclusions of the independent review of financial support for students, however it is critical that whatever model is recommended is based on grants and bursaries rather than loans and more student debt."

Scottish Greens’ education spokesperson Ross Greer called for a more generous system of awards.

He said: “The Greens are calling for the expansion, or more accurately re-introduction, of student bursaries which do not need repaid.

"The aim of these bursaries should be to ensure that no student is in poverty during their studies and to tackle the high number of drop-outs due to financial pressures."

It was Labour, in 1998, which replaced grants with student loans. Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Iain Gray said the benefit of free tuition was being undermined by a lack of support for living costs for students.

He said: “The SNP’s support for free tuition does not absolve them from the betrayal of Scotland’s young people when they promised to dump student debt, then dumped grants and bursaries instead.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said Ministers intended to improve financial support for students.

The spokesperson said: “Scotland continues to have the lowest average student loan debt in the UK.

“We also recognise that appropriate financial support while studying is essential and will always take the opportunity to improve student support where we can."