HUNDREDS of extra postgraduate places are to be created at the country’s universities following a £30 million investment from the Scottish Government.
The additional 850 places in fields including energy, financial services, life sciences and tourism are being delivered by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), which hands out money to universities on behalf of the government.
The SFC said the extra places would help widen access for the poorest students by helping “ease the burden” associated with postgraduate study.
On Tuesday, education secretary Mike Russell told the Scottish Parliament’s education committee he wanted to increase dramatically the number of students from deprived backgrounds at Scotland’s universities.
But while the extra money for postgraduate study has been welcomed by universities, it comes at a time when Scotland’s colleges are seeing their budgets cut. Mr Russell said: “This significant investment, over £6.2m in 2013-14 alone, is a further sign of our commitment to providing exceptional education that meets the demands of our industry and economy and gives our students unprecedented opportunities.
“Starting next year, hundreds more postgraduate students will be able to pursue their specialities in key economic areas such as energy, life sciences, the creative industries, construction and health.”
The new postgraduate places will be spread across all 18 of Scotland’s universities, with the country’s two biggest institutions, Glasgow and Edinburgh, receiving the most – 122 and 92 respectively. The Scottish Government said the money would guarantee the extra 850 places for each of the next five years.
Among the places, there will be 20 at Abertay University in Dundee for a food and drink course being run in collaboration with Scotland Food & Drink and Skills Development Scotland.
The professional masters (MProf) course will feature associate lecturers from the food industry and industry-linked innovation projects.
Graduates are increasingly turning to postgraduate qualifications to help stand out in the jobs market as more and more young people leave university with a degree and find it hard to get their first job.
Mark Batho, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “Scottish employers are increasingly looking to recruit people with postgraduate qualifications. The additional places we are funding will provide students with greater opportunities for postgraduate study in Scotland.”
Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland added: “We very much welcome the announcement, as Universities Scotland has called for investment and support at this level of study for some time.”
Late last year, the SFC provided Scotland’s universities with an extra £10m to help create an additional 1,700 places for students from the most deprived backgrounds. Scotland’s universities have been accused of not doing enough to encourage applications from poorer students.
Universities fined for admitting too many Scots and EU students
TWO Scottish universities have been fined for admitting too many Scottish and EU students.
Figures from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), which provides money to universities on behalf of the Scottish Government, show Abertay University in Dundee was fined £132,000 from its annual £14.5 million teaching grant, while the Scottish Agricultural College, now part of the amalgamated Scotland’s Rural College, was docked £142,000 of its £4.7m grant.
While there are no limits on the number of international and rest of UK (RUK) students Scottish universities can admit, there are strict controls on the number of funded places for Scots and those from elsewhere in the EU. Despite the fines, the figures for academic year 2011-12 represent a fall from the previous year, when four universities – Aberdeen, Abertay, Heriot-Watt and Stirling – were fined a total of £1,757,000.
In a recent letter to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, education secretary Mike Russell said he is continuing to investigate a “service charge” for EU students, but added the situation remained “very complex”.
Glasgow University has previously warned that increasing numbers of EU students coming to Scotland for free tuition could see Scots miss out on a place at university in their home country.