This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Portfolio Education Universities


A political choice


Cera Murtagh Education Correspondent


Parties have made their pledges on HE funding. Now students remind them of the price of breaking them


After months of ‘will they, won’t they?’


parties have finally nailed their colours to the mast on higher education. And four out of five have come down on the side of rejecting fees, front door or back. But without that extra revenue, can Scotland’s universities maintain the quantity and quality of what they provide? In the last six months the political landscape


around higher education in Scotland has shifted radically. A graduate contribution has gone from seeming a fait accompli to a toxic policy that only the Tories dare embrace. Te explosive reaction against the tuition fee hike south of the border has made an impression on Scottish politicians. And an election has further focused their minds. Te SNP, Labour, the Lib Dems and the


Greens have now ruled out any form of student or graduate contribution, if elected to government in May. First Minister Alex Salmond has vowed that “the rocks will melt wi’ the sun” before his party introduces fees in any guise. Te Lib Dems, eager to stand apart from their Westminster colleagues, have made a similar promise. Meanwhile, after veering in the direction of a graduate contribution, Labour has latterly joined the front against fees. Yet with a funding gap of up to £200m to be bridged, they must now explain how they will sustain that policy, whilst maintaining student numbers and preserving the standard of Scottish higher education. Indeed the student lobby is not letting


parties off the hook. Before MSPs broke up for the campaign it staged a demonstration outside Parliament, pressing them to keep fees off the table, protect student numbers and improve student support. NUS Scotland President Liam Burns does welcome the rejection of fees. He warns, however, that the gap must now be met through public funding. And that will entail some tough choices.


34 Holyrood 28 March 2011


“I think they’re the right pledges to make


as long as they put their money where their mouth is post-election,” Burns tells Holyrood. “If you are going to take votes by claiming


there will be no contribution then I don’t mind that. Tat’s fine – then you make difficult decisions elsewhere, you fund the sector properly.” And that means closing any gap that emerges, the president adds. Te true size of that shortfall between Scottish and English universities will not be known until the fees to be charged south of the border are revealed in July. Te technical group, of the Scottish Government and Universities Scotland


“They’re the right pledges


to make as long as they put their money where their mouth is post-election”


officials, has estimated that a gap of £155m to £202m will open up by 2014. But that is based on the assumption that £7,500 will be the average fee. If more universities go closer to the upper limit of £9000, that divide could be starker. Te student leader applauds Education


Secretary Michael Russell’s promise to “fill any gap” and to legislate for a minimum student income. But how does he plan to finance these commitments? Te SNP’s solution has a number of strands


but chief amongst them is raising revenue from non-Scottish students. Russell estimates that £62m can be generated from charging higher fees (£6,375 a year) to the 12 per cent of students who come from the rest of the UK. More controversially, he ventures that £22m could be leveraged from the 6.7 per cent of students who come from other EU countries. Tis would involve introducing a new ‘service charge’ for European students, as operates in Ireland. By the Cabinet Secretary’s calculations, these income streams would reduce the gap to around £70m. Tese solutions may not be as clever as they sound, however. Under EU law the legality of charging only EU students is questionable – in Ireland the €2000 ‘registration fee’ also applies to Irish students. But even if it was possible, Universities Scotland argues that this is not dependable income. Demand from other UK and EU students is variable, and if charges are introduced there is nothing to say that that demand won’t fall. “Demand from students from the rest of


the UK is volatile, which is one of the reasons why Universities Scotland does not think this can be a Scottish solution in its own right; Scotland’s universities need more stability than this revenue can offer on its own,” says Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland. Indeed Sir Andrew Cubie, author of the


report which led to the abolition of upfront tuition fees in 1999, warns that such a move could deter these students from coming to Scotland – bad news not just for the sector but for the student population.


© NUS Scotland


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80