Scotland

English, Welsh and N Irish 'face Scots degree fee rise'

  • 16 December 2010
  • From the section Scotland

Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who go to university in Scotland could face annual fees of up to £6,000.

The plan is part of a series of Scottish government proposals on tackling a funding gap in higher education.

Other options in a new Green Paper include a graduate tax and increased support from business and donations.

Ministers have ruled out re-introducing up-front tuition fees for Scots.

Scottish students studying at home currently pay no tuition fees, while other UK students currently at Scottish universities pay £1,820 per year for mainstream courses.

The Scottish government aims to implement its changes in 2012, in line with the reforms in England.

'Fee refugees'

The UK government's move to raise tuition fees in England to as much as £9,000 a year has prompted outrage among students and violent protest.

The Scottish government says the state should be the main provider for education, with access to it based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.

Education Secretary Mike Russell's Green Paper outlined six options for future funding:

  • The state retaining primary responsibility for funding
  • The state retaining primary responsibility for funding, but with a form of graduate contribution
  • Increasing income from students coming to Scotland from other parts of the UK
  • increasing donations and "philanthropic giving"
  • Increase investment from Scottish businesses in higher education
  • Make more efficiency savings in the sector

Mr Russell has expressed concern that rising fees in England may lead to a flood of so-called "fee refugees" coming to study in Scotland.

Unveiling his proposals at the Scottish Parliament, said the reforms were also about excellence in higher education, adding: "We must of course encourage others to study here and encourage more of our students to study abroad.

"But we must never become a cheap option. Our excellence must be our beacon - not our price."

Mr Russell branded the move in England "flawed", saying the state had abdicated its funding responsibility, that it was based on the "mistaken belief" that only individuals benefited from higher education and that it affected the ability of poorer people to study.

"After all, higher education is one of our most valuable national assets, it would be wrong of us not to protect its value and enhance its reputation," he said.

"So that is why the state assuming the prime funding responsibility, coupled with this Parliament's rejection of tuition fees, lies at the heart of the paper I am launching today."

Mr Russell, who said there was "no silver bullet" to solve the funding issues, also called for political consensus and "absolute clarity" from parties before the Scottish Parliament elections in May next year.

He said not all the ideas in the green paper were supported by the government but said a re-elected SNP administration would legislate in the second half of 2011.

Graduate contribution

The three main opposition parties challenged the education secretary to give a definitive answer on whether the SNP's preferred option would include some form of graduate contribution.

Labour education spokesman Des McNulty said: "This document contains no models, no work-out options and very few numbers. It could have been produced months ago. It takes us no further forward."

Conservative education spokeswoman Elizabeth Smith said: "Does the Scottish government's preferred option, option one, mean that graduates will now have to make a contribution, and if so how much?

"Secondly, why has it taken the government three years to produce what is little more than a discussion paper, when the universities sector and my party were warning of the urgent need for solutions to address that issue all that time ago?"

Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis called on the Scottish government to recognise the inequalities within Scotland.

He said: "Only one in five young people from deprived backgrounds go into further education, compared to four in five from affluent backgrounds, and that's when university places were free."

Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland, said tuition fees were "simply unacceptable regardless of where you come from", and raising fees for other UK students was a "knee jerk reaction".

But he added: "If fees go up in Scotland for students from the rest of the UK, it will be directly down to the Scottish Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs that voted for the trebling of fees in the rest of the UK.

"We warned that this would be the consequence of voting to treble fees in the rest of the UK and today, the seven Liberal Democrat MPs in Scotland that failed to keep their pledge to vote against increased fees should hang their head in shame."

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