IF you have seen any discussion in recent years of student funding in Europe, and how Scotland compares, the chances are the subject will have been tuition fees.

On that measure, Scotland of course mirrors Scandinavia, and now Germany, in offering free tuition to many of its students.

On another measure, however, Scotland is not at all like Scandinavia or indeed, it turns out, much like anywhere else in Western Europe at all. That measure is the value of student grant.

Eurydice, an arm of the European Commission, has just published a round-up of student support and fee systems in 2014-15 across the EU, EFTA and the EEA, covering 38 countries including Turkey, providing the best available detailed, comparative, up-to-date source on student funding across the continent. The Eurydice briefing shows that, at £1,750 a year, Scotland now offers the lowest maximum value of student grant of any jurisdiction in western Europe, other than Iceland which uniquely has no grants at all. This follows the decision in Scotland to reduce substantially grants for living costs and move to much greater reliance on student loans.

To find systems offering lower levels of grant, Scots now need to look to Greece, Turkey and parts of Eastern Europe. The income-related maximum grant is higher than in Scotland, but still below €3000 in value, in German-speaking Belgium and Estonia. The maximum grant is greater still, in ascending order, in: Luxembourg, Sweden, Slovakia, Malta, Cyprus, Germany, England, Slovenia, Northern Ireland, French-speaking Belgium, Italy, Norway (€5,000+), Flemish-speaking Belgium, France, Portugal, Ireland, Spain (€6,000+), The Netherlands, Wales, Austria (€8,000+), Denmark, Finland and Liechtenstein (€12,000+). Latvia, Lithuania and Poland all also exceed €3,000 if merit-based grants are taken into account. Scotland's approach to grant is out of step with most of Europe.

Of course, Scottish students can top up their grant with loan, to increase their spending power, an increasingly common model in Europe, not least Scandinavia. However, grant and loan are not the same thing.

Any system which makes little use of grant spells particular trouble for those whose families are least able to help, or those who have no access to family support, pushing them towards greater hardship, more pressure to work during term time, private loans or heavier dependency on accumulating government debt. Scotland has chosen the last of these for its poorest students.

That's certainly better than the first three options, not least given that student loan repayments across the UK are now linked to earnings, but still unwelcome in its long-term regressive effects.

As the report points out, it also matters how many students receive grant. Scotland does better than two-thirds of European countries on this measure. Exceptionally, of the countries providing figures here, Scotland does not report grant take-up, offering only a different, rather higher figure for the combined take-up of student loans and grants. The report therefore incorrectly groups Scotland with those countries where more than half of students receive some grant. According to separate Scottish Government statistics the true figure is around 45 per cent, similar to the position in Ireland.

However, substantially more students receive grant elsewhere in the UK, from 56 per cent in England to 68 per cent in Wales, due to more generous upper thresholds for entitlement. The figures are higher too in The Netherlands (76 per cent), and in Scandinavia, from 58 per cent in Norway to 100 per cent in Denmark. Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus also have universal grant.

So Scotland's approach to grant, of more limited value and availability, doesn't look nearly as Scandinavian as its approach to fees. Indeed on this dimension of student funding, Wales, Northern Ireland and England all resemble that region more.