As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, South Lanarkshire College staff and students are working together on a number of inspiring initiatives to help all learners.

Rose Harkness, Head of Student Services at East Kilbride College, explains: “Rising bills and interest rates, uncertainty around mortgages and the cost of renting accommodation are all causing great anxiety for people who are understandably worried about the future and how it might affect their opportunities.’


She adds: “Many of our students have families or work part-time at the same time as completing their course, so they have a lot on their plate. And of course, all of this comes against the backdrop of a very difficult few years due to the Covid pandemic.

“However, we are pleased that almost all of our students are back on campus and experiencing all aspects of student life and peer support.”

She adds: “At South Lanarkshire College we have a real sense of community and we know how important it is to support each other. We understand the needs of our students and can take prompt action to help when needed.”

South Lanarkshire staff are currently working closely with the Students’ Association on a range of thoughtful and creative initiatives to help learners.

“We’re developing services with the Students’ Union, which has been a great response to the cost-of-living crisis and previously to the pandemic,” says Rose.

“The association told us that their goal is to make sure that no student goes to class hungry, and that really challenged us and we wanted to support that.

“We introduced free breakfasts and soup and sandwich lunches for students on campus during Covid and we recently brought that back, which was very successful. Hundreds of students have benefited.”


South Lanarkshire was one of the first colleges in the Scotland provide free access to hygiene products to the student and staff community, and this is now done in a variety of ways; free vending machines in dedicated toilets across campus, grocery collection from easy access points, holiday packs and an online facility where groceries can be delivered to a student’s home address through the college’s partner charity Hey Girls.

Rose adds: “By offering a range of options, especially on a distance basis, it means students can order online and have products delivered straight to their home address, which is fantastic.

“We’re also working with foodbank charity the Trussell Trust to provide vouchers, and we’ll be encouraging students to use our warm facilities on campus, such as the IT Learning Center and the library – all these little things add up to make a big difference when you need a little support”.

The College administers Discretionary Hardship Funding to encourage students experiencing significant financial difficulties to apply for assistance.

“We also provide urgent same-day cash support,” adds Rose. “We know there are students in financial crisis who may not have access to money for food or fuel to heat their homes, so this service can help.”

Practical and mental support health support goes hand in hand, Rose explains.

“You can’t separate the two,” she adds. “We all know that worrying about money affects mental health, and when you’re in a bad mood it can be hard to focus on anything else, which makes it harder for students to focus on their studies. We have an in-house advisory team of experienced counsellors, counselors and advisors in student services who can provide emotional support and practical financial help such as budgeting advice and advocacy, and we run free weekly mindfulness and yoga sessions for staff and students – All students who signed up for yoga this year received a free yoga mat.

“Our goal is always to make a positive difference in people’s lives in any way we can.”

HeraldScotland: is President of South Lanarkshire College Students’ Association.

“We work very closely with the National Union of Students who are fighting hard for students during the cost of living crisis,” she explains. “They are campaigning hard to increase grants and scholarships and introduce half-price buses and trains travel for all students. We’ve already successfully achieved a rent freeze for students and free bus travel for all under-22s, so progress has been made and we’re confident we’ll be able to meet our targets.”

Rahela explains that the Students’ Association is committed to supporting the Young Scot Guarantee, which is committed to offering every 16-24 year old in Scotland an opportunity, be it work, apprenticeships, further or higher education educationtraining or volunteering or enterprise.

She adds: “The ultimate aim is to support students to complete their courses and achieve qualifications. Our three main priorities are to empower students, support their mental health and wellbeing and help them have fun through games and activities.

“We hear a lot of stories from students who are facing a difficult situation and are very upset. We want to support them in achieving their dreams. Our class representatives help spread the word about the help that is out there because there is so much help available.”

Rose Harkness agrees. “Like all colleges and universities in Scotland, we pride ourselves on putting students at the heart of everything we do, from learning and teaching to support services,” she says. “We want to provide a warm, supportive learning experience to empower every student to achieve their goals, because as we all know, that’s what will help them in the future.

“Now that we’re all back on campus, there’s a really positive vibe, a feeling that we’re recovering despite the difficulties, and it’s fantastic to see students engaged and enthusiastic about learning and coming together again.”

She adds: “We really care about all our students and when you have that kind of training, the students recognize it and respond well to it. All our staff, whether they work in reception or in senior management, come together to give our students the best experience and that’s what it’s all about.”