Across The Capital
With the last remaining Scottish institution, University of Highlands and Islands (UHI), announcing their degree cost for British students, Scotland becomes the most expensive place to study in the UK, claims the National Union of Students (NUS).
A degree at UHI for non-Scottish UK students will cost £22,500 from 2012/13. This brings the average degree cost in Scottish institutions to £27,083, compared to £25,179 in England. . This means the average Scottish degree will cost more than the most expensive English degrees (£27,000).
The legislation allowing Scottish universities to charge English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students for their studies was introduced in order to safeguard places for Scottish students, after the Coalition Government introduced the same law for universities in England last year. The Scottish Education Secretary, Michael Russel, said in June, when proposing the legislation, that it would prevent from Scottish institutions being seen as the ‘cheap option’ by the rest of the UK.
He also claimed that hardly any Scottish university would set the maximum fee of £9,000 per year.
With all Scottish institutions having published, what they will charge from next academic year, the average degree comes up to over £27,000. However, as the majority of non-Scottish UK students study at the institutions that set the highest degree cost of £36,000: University of Edinburgh (31% of non-Scottish students) and St Andrews University (11%), the average degree cost in Scotland will exceed £30,000.
Nathan Sheilds, President of UHI Student Association, said in a statement for NUS:
“We are fully against all fees, and support free education. I fully understand that the University of the Highlands and Islands was put in a difficult position, but this is a huge missed opportunity to set an example to other universities and throughout the UK, that we are interested in students’ ability, not the money they can bring.”
Robin Parker, President of NUS Scotland, said in a statement:
“Principals were given a huge responsibility to set fees, but they’ve shown that they can’t be trusted. Now that every university has set its fee level, we can see that Scotland’s fees system has gone beyond even what we’ve seen in England. This will no doubt cause untold damage to Scotland’s reputation in the rest of the UK.
“The Scottish Government should now step in to reduce these fee levels and to introduce minimum standards on bursaries to protect access for the poorest students, and save university principals from themselves.”
The Scottish Education Secretary commented for the Office of Fair Access:
“I am pleased that the majority of our universities have shown restraint and we estimate that the proposed average fee of £6,841 will be further decreased by packages of bursaries and fee waivers to around £6,375, one of the scenarios which the Joint Technical Working Group envisaged earlier this year.
“Of course, the Scottish Government has provided a generous settlement for our universities – which has been universally welcomed. I am confident that our universities are now on the best possible footing to continue to compete with the best in the world.”
The Secretary refers to the £217 million of Government funding by 2015 for Scottish universities, promised in The Scottish Spending Review 2011, published last Thursday.
Dundee and Glasgow Caledonian Universities have recently announced they will charge British students from outside Scotland £27,000 for a full undergraduate course.
The charges are a result of the new legislation introduced by the Scottish Government to narrow the funding gap between Scottish and English universities. But should EU students be made to pay also?
When launching a consultation on the legislation in June The Scottish Education Secretary, Michael Russel, said that the rise in cap on the tuition fees in England, introduced by the Coalition Government last year, threatens the “quality and competitiveness” of Scottish universities.
He claimed it would prevent Scottish institutions being seen as ‘the cheap option’, and would protect spaces for Scottish students.
In the meantime, the numbers of Scottish undergraduates studying at home has fallen by 1.3 per cent in the past five years.
The legislation is expected to fill some of the funding gap between Scottish and English institutions, predicted earlier this year. When English universities were allowed to raise the fee cap to £9,000, it was estimated that by 2015 they would earn £268 million in funding more than Scottish institutions.
The Scottish Spending Review 2011, published last Thursday, promises universities £217 million Government funding by 2015.
It suggests that the gap will be narrowed down by additional £56 million from charging students from rest of the UK for studying at Scottish universities.
Currently an estimated 20,000 students from the rest of the UK study full-time at undergraduate level in Scottish universities and so would be eligible to pay higher fees under the new arrangements.
The opponents of the legislation point out that the prospect of paying £36,000 for a four-year undergraduate degree in Scotland – which is one year longer than in England – can stop UK students from studying in Scotland altogether.
Mr Russel suggested that fewer than half of Scottish universities will charge the maximum fee. However, both St Andrews and Edinburgh Universities already set the £9,000 fee for their 2012-2013 courses – the same as Oxford and Cambridge.
In the light of student protests against the rising costs of education, it was suggested the Scottish Government should push to introduce a fee for undergraduate students from the EU who are currently exempt from paying fees, on the basis of international regulation.
Mr Russell has previously talked about introducing an annual “service charge” for EU students studying in Scotland, but there is no mention of any such measures in the new Spending Review.
In the past five years Scottish universities noted a near 60 per cent rise in students from the EU.
However, there was also noted a near 30 per cent rise in overseas students from other regions, who pay a considerably higher level of fees (for example, £13,500 for 2011/12 at St Andrews University). The number of postgraduate students from outside the UK has also risen by nearly 40 per cent (average £11,100 for 2011/12)
The trend is not exceptional for Scotland; the number of both: undergraduate and postgraduate overseas students for the whole of UK shot up by nearly 65 per cent in the five year period.
As a response to the Coalition Government proposals for changes to student visas, the University and College Union warned this could make the UK a less popular destination for foreign students, which, based on today’s figures, would be bad news for UK universities as they struggled to adjust to huge government funding cuts.
Robin Parker, President of the National Union of Students Scotland, told us that no students, British or foreign, should be made to pay.
But what do you think?