A call for the industry to lobby the government to ring-fence students' bursary spend on textbooks has received support from the trade.
In a speech given at the BA a.g.m. held in London last Thursday (9th June), Iain Finlayson, chairman of the Bookseller Association's academic, professional and specialist bookselling group, called on chain and independent retailers to work together with the BA to propose that students are given book tokens as part of their bursary money.
"Booksellers and the BA need to lobby the government to ensure that the bursaries they have alluded to are not spent at any of the many distractions which aim to tempt students," he said. "We need the government to legislate that in the new world of increased tuition fees, provision is made for ring-fenced spend on educational material."
Afterwards Finlayson said members of the industry had come forward to support the idea. Alex de Berry, m.d. of National Book Tokens, said he would back the venture if there was consensus behind it at next week's APS bookselling group meeting.
Meanwhile, Toby Bourne, head of books at Waterstone's, said any way of making books easier for students to buy should be considered. "If that means government action to ensure students have guaranteed cash to spend on books, then we would fully support that call," he said.
However, NUS president Aaron Porter said while universities and publishers should investigate innovative ways to provide the written materials students need for their studies, pressure on students' finances were "varied and highly individual" and therefore ring-fencing bursary income was "unlikely to provide an adequate solution".
Bursary entitlements for students can vary but in 2008/09, 346,000 students received them.