HIGHER education should be substantially paid for through general taxation and immigration caps for students and university staff coming to Scotland should be lifted, according to a union representing the sector.
The University and College Union (UCU) has set out its manifesto in anticipation of the independence referendum.
Whatever the outcome of next year’s vote, the UCU has called on all sides to support adequate funding of universities via taxation, reject student tuition fees and back the four-year honours degree system.
The manifesto calls for UK immigration rules to be relaxed so that more students and staff from other countries can be recruited.
It also recommends the reintroduction of the Fresh Talent Initiative, whereby graduates originally from overseas get a two-year work visa.
The UCU has also asked for clarity on whether research funding will be allocated on a cross-border basis in the event of independence, or through a separate body in Scotland.
“It is right that students who benefit from higher-than-average incomes should pay something back, but they should do so through progressive income tax,” it said in its manifesto.
“Business depends on graduates and should make a contribution rather than receiving tax breaks. Higher education should be substantially paid for through general taxation.
“Continued and sustainable research funding is vitally important to Scottish higher education, and universities need to know whether funding will be provided on a cross-border basis in the event of independence, or via a separate Scottish body.
“Scotland does not have great concerns about an immigration influx and should relax rules which could lead to greater recruitment of students, though they may be put off by negative perceptions of the UK system.
“We recommend that the Scottish Government removes immigration caps and reinstates the Fresh Talent Initiative.”
Commenting on the manifesto, UCU Scotland president Dave Anderson said: “Universities are vital for Scotland’s social and economic development. UCU is calling on all sides of the constitutional debate to make clear their support for our universities.
“All sides need to set out their commitment to adequate public funding, to maintain Scotland’s four-year honours degree and to reject student fees, whatever the constitutional settlement may be.
“There are some very important questions to be answered over the next 11 months before Scotland votes in the historic referendum.
“UCU looks forward to debating the key issues with all sides and encouraging our members to get involved in the discussion.”